Update, January 2016: More Apoquel on Way for Dogs, Zoetis Says
Dog owners desperate to put their pets on the new anti-itch drug Apoquel will have to wait nine more months as the manufacturer ramps up production.
Zoetis Inc. of Florham Park, N.J., had expected the Apoquel shortage to last until mid-2015, but the company recently reported that the distribution clampdown should loosen sooner―by April 2015.
Apoquel (oclacitinib tablet) received an enthusiastic response from dog owners and veterinarians after the drug hit the U.S. market Jan. 20.
Often effective within 24 hours of initial use, the prescription-only drug is indicated for the control of itching associated with allergic dermatitis and the control of clinical manifestations of atopic dermatitis. The tablets, which work by blocking a dog’s urge to scratch, are given twice a day for the first two weeks and daily thereafter.
The drug’s success combined with growing demand and a complicated manufacturing process quickly left Apoquel in short supply. Zoetis responded by giving priority to pets already on the drug and by rejecting new orders from veterinarians.
In some cases, veterinarians who were able to get Apoquel were suddenly cut off.
Steven Leder, senior vice president of Zoetis’ U.S. Companion Animal Division, said the company is working to reduce the tablets’ manufacturing time and add production capacity.
“By April 2015 we expect to significantly increase the supply of Apoquel, and as result, we will be able to begin offering Apoquel to new customers,” he said. “Until that time, veterinarians who are currently receiving product will continue to receive Apoquel at current limited supply amounts.”
The shortage has frustrated and angered dog owners who see Apoquel as the solution to the scratching and inflammation associated with allergic skin disease.
“Please, please help my Emma,” one owner wrote on the Veterinary Practice News website in response to a May story about the shortage. “She is a 9-year-old cocker spaniel who needs this badly. My vet can’t get her hands on it, and the medicine she is taking is not working.”
Dozens of dog owners expressed similar sentiments.
A French Mastiff owner who was able to buy Apoquel for a short time described it as a miracle drug that allowed her “bald, scabby and sore” dog to heal and return to the show ring.
“The Apoquel ran out five days ago and I can see hives, spots and itching starting to rear its ugly head again,” Louise lamented.
Another owner criticized Zoetis as “very, very cruel.”
“Please, God, let another pharma company come up with a similar formula and leave Zoetis with its new stock,” Stef wrote.
Leder acknowledged that the shortage has both irritated dog owners and denied relief to their pets.
“I apologize for the frustration and disappointment this situation is causing you and the discomfort to dogs that need the product but cannot access Apoquel,” he stated.