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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 6 April 2004 Issue

Heartworm Medication Raises Questions

NEW YORK (CBS) The focus of an investigative story by our sister-station WBZ-TV Boston is a popular medication being used to prevent heartworm, a potentially deadly disease. WBZ's Joe Bergantino has learned that after taking this drug thousands of dogs have gotten sick, hundreds have even died.

Joanne Plumer treats all of her dogs like members of the family.

So she immediately noticed something was wrong with her 13-year-old named April. "She couldn't stand up any more, she couldn't eat, her mouth was full of blisters, her fur was falling out."

It all started the day after April got a shot of the heartworm medication ProHeart 6. Three weeks later, April had to be put to sleep.

"We were devastated with April. We were totally devastated with April. She was my baby," Joanne recalled.

Within a few weeks, Joanne's other dog, 10-year-old Cuji, also treated with ProHeart 6, got very sick. Cuji died three months after getting her shot.

"She went completely blind. Then you know, she started coughing and coughing and she couldn't catch her breath and we checked her out and she had complete kidney failure," Joanne remembered.

These are not isolated cases.

WBZ's I-Team investigation found that in the past two and a half years the FDA has received more than 4,000 reports of dogs getting sick after getting a shot of ProHeart 6. And more than 400 dogs have died nationwide.

The FDA says it's been able to link ProHeart 6 to a small percentage of those cases but even those numbers are, in the FDA's words, "a cause for concern."

The FDA is investigating.

In fact, the FDA has twice told the makers of ProHeart 6 to change its labeling, most recently asking the company to add that there have been rare  reports of death.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg," says Veterinarian Bob Rogers. He wonders why the FDA has not taken the drug off the market.

The FDA's answer: it believes the medication could potentially save the lives of more dogs than it harms.

But Dr. Rogers disagrees. "I have seen veterinary drugs pulled off the market when there were less deaths involved than this."

As for the manufacturer of ProHeart 6, a company called Fort Dodge Animal Health, it declined an on-camera interview but released this statement saying  "Millions of U.S. dogs have benefited from the heartworm protection provided by ProHeart 6. The reports submitted to the FDA represent a fraction of 1% of total doses sold and the product has been proven to be safe."

Donna Sadoski doesn't believe that. Her 11-year-old dog Sammy went  blind after getting a shot of ProHeart 6.

"I wonder how many animals will be put to sleep? How many animals will have life threatening problems they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives before someone stops this medicine from actually being given to them," Donna told WBZ.

The makers of ProHeart 6 say they do not believe their heartworm medication caused Donna's and Joanne's dogs to get sick.

But the FDA continues to investigate, at this point asking the company to find out if there are any impurities in the drug's formula that may be causing problems.\

Staff: VeganRadfem

Return to Animals in Print 6 April 2004 Issue

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