Updated September 3, 2021
The nightmare is almost over. Until very recently, a diagnosis of Feline Infectious Peritonitis was a death sentence. Either a slow, lingering decline or a decision to euthanase and spare the suffering. This happened to around 1% of cats, most of them kittens.
Then it was discovered that certain antiviral drugs could not only improve the symptoms, they could actually bring about a cure. But there was still a hitch.
These antivirals weren’t licensed in Australia, and therefore illegal to import and use. So the only cats who survived were those whose owners and vets were prepared to take the risk. My own veterinary association shamefully advised against their use, despite the evidence.
All that has ended for Australian cats. Elsewhere in the world, remdesivir can still be much harder to source. We apologise that for legal reasons we are unable to assist outside of Australia.
Remdesivir: A New Hope For FIP
You’ve heard of remdesivir. It was rushed through TGA and FDA approval due to promising results in the treatment of COVID-19. What’s important about remdesivir is that it’s almost identical to those black market drugs like GS- 441524.
Except this time it’s freely available with a valid prescription, and has all the quality controls we expect from licensed drugs. Vets still need to warn you about ‘off-label’ use, but this is the same discussion we have whenever we pick up a human drug (which is often!)
Preliminary trial work in Sydney has produced excellent results. So now we have a drug for all. I estimate that less than 5% of cats with FIP a were previously being saved using GS. We should now see all owners getting offered the chance, and most taking it up, though cost issues still exist.
Costs Of Remdesivir Use In Cats
As you can imagine, it’s an expensive drug. A rough estimate is that a course of 80 days treatment costs around $5000.
However, this is very similar to the prices people are currently paying for black market GS- 441524 of unproven purity or efficacy. This time, if a cat is insured, the insurance company is likely to pay for it as well. Read a longer comparison of GS and remdesivir here.
Based on our experience, 84 days of treatment should bring about a cure in the large majority of affected cats. It’s administered as once-daily subcutaneous injections, but don’t be put off. Everyone can do it, and we are happy to show you how.
Remdesivir Advice For Veterinarians
Australian vets reading this are welcome to contact me for a document containing suggested dose rates, protocols based on disease presentation, and how to source the injectable vials. Some brief notes on doses can be found in the comment section below.
If you. do this, please also collaborate in a research project being run through Sydney Uni. Ask me for more details.
We are all thoroughly indebted to the work of Dr Richard Malik DVSc PhD FACVSc FASM and the feline research team at my alma mater The University Of Sydney.
We are also indebted to the volunteer groups who, by taking on the risk, have helped many cats back to health. Their job is done, and we’re grateful.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!