AR-News: Neutersol: More Harm than Good

Bill Dollinger bill at
Thu Dec 11 11:09:24 EST 2003

Neutersol: More harm than good 
>From Actionline, Winter 2003/2004
                          By Starre Vartan
It would be a blessing if we could just wave a 
wand one day and the persistent problem of dog 
and cat overpopulation would just disappear.  
Unfortunately, it's not that simple, though the 
developers of Neutersol, a chemical sterilant 
recently approved by the Food and Drug 
Administration would like you to think so. 
Friends of Animals has been involved in the 
debate over chemical sterilants for more than 
10 of our 46 years, and we certainly recognize 
that the mass killings of dogs and cats in shelters 
is a tragedy.  Nobody wants to see animals 
languishing in shelters or killed at the rate of 
5 million dogs and cats a year.  But Neutersol 
is not the panacea for pet overpopulation it is
 purported to be; this is one case where the 
ends don't justify the means.
Neutersol (a chemical made up of zinc gluconate, 
neutralized by argenine) is administered by direct 
injection to the testicles of a dog, and currently,
 only for male puppies 3-10 months of age.  
It prevents development and maturation of
 the sperm, causing atrophy of the testicles.  
Though general anesthesia isn't used, as it is 
for surgical neutering, a sedative is still needed 
to keep the dog still while it is being injected.  
This is because testicular problems can be 
encountered if the injections are made too 
forcefully or the wrong dosage is used.  
Dr. Don Polley, DVM, director of vet services 
for Neutersol, says that the biggest challenge 
faced by the company is "educating the vets 
in the proper procedure." 
Nevertheless, Neutersol is touted as safe, 
highly effective, and 'quick and convenient' 
by the manufacturer.  Neutersol is being 
marketed heavily toward both veterinarians 
and pet owners alike, as it's patent runs out 
in just five years.  That means that the company 
has that long to make a profit on this drug 
before it can be sold in generic form, so the 
cost for the chemical sterilant is not any less 
than that for a traditional neutering procedure.  
A low-cost neutering option was one of the 
major reasons that a chemical sterilant was 
advocated,  but it turns out to be about the 
same price as surgery.
Advocates for Neutersol claim that animal 
shelters with on-site vets will be able and 
more likely to neuter dogs before they leave
 the shelter, an admirable goal.  Since the 
cost of using Neutersol is the same as for a 
traditional sterilization, it isn't obvious why 
shelters would be able to afford this procedure 
any more than they can afford surgical spay/neuter. 
Cost is the top reason many people give 
for not spaying or neutering their pets, and 
Neutersol's price and the vet training required 
to administer the injectable drug leave most 
shelters back where they started - with too 
many homeless animals, and not enough 
money to neuter them all.  
If shelters had the funds to neuter animals, 
they could do so, since early-age neutering 
has become an accepted practice.  The 
American Veterinary Association states that 
they ".support the concept for early (eight 
to 16 weeks of age) spays and castrations in 
dogs and cats, in an effort to stem the 
overpopulation problem in these species." 
 Surgical spaying and castration has only 
positive long-term effects on animals, like 
reducing the incidence of various cancers, 
and hasn't been shown to affect the health or 
longevity of an animal.  Neutersol is too new 
to know what the long-term health effects might be. 
Of course, using a chemical sterilant does take 
significantly less time than a surgical neutering 
procedure does, so the profit potential for vets
 in private practice is significant, since they 
can do several chemical sterilizations in the 
time it takes to do one surgical procedure - a deliberate business move. 
A Darker Side  
But there are far darker reasons for avoiding Neutersol
 that go beyond money-making schemes, which
 include the spec of animal testing.  To get Neutersol 
approved, over 20 years of animal tests were 
suffered by the same dogs and cats it purports
 to help.  This should be of concern to animal 
advocates, since it has been an uphill battle to
 convince the public and the scientific establishment
 that animals should not needlessly be tested upon. 
Even testing on animals for their own species' 
benefit cannot be justified, considering there is 
already a reliable method available for sterilization. 
The late Dr. Mostafa Fahim, of the 
University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine,
 the developer of Neutersol, had been working o
n this project since 1982, which means 
that for almost 20 years animals have been 
used for various tests, to advance Neutersol 
to the marketplace.  Many of these tests were 
duplicated time and again to pass through accepted scientific protocols. 
According to Dr. Polley, "No animals were 
sacrificed in the FDA studies."  He was unable 
to comment on the studies made before the 
chemical was submitted to the FDA for testing, 
and the FDA declined to provide that information.  
What is obvious to anyone who reads the 
reports that the FDA has put out is that dogs 
were monitored for a host of side-effects, 
like continuous barking, vomiting, tail-biting 
and hyperactivity.  And before the FDA got 
involved, documents show that testing included
 the killing of the animals used for tests after 12 months. 
The killing of the subjects of animal testing 
in order to weigh and measure internal organs 
is typical for experimentation of new drugs, 
and is also documented in pre-FDA 
Neutersol clinical trials.  What isn't typical
 is that this work was sponsored by the 
Humane Society of the United States 
and was even underwritten by them.  There is 
no reason animals should be tested upon and
 live the miserable life of a lab rat because 
it's 'quicker and easier' solution for vets 
or squeamish pet owners.  
And it's not as if all that testing and animal 
suffering is in the past.  The mistreatment of 
animals for lab tests goes on.  Phase 1 testing 
of cats is proceeding now, according to Dr. Polley.  
"We anticipate that within five to six years
 we will have this available for cats, and 
within a year all-ages of dogs will be covered."  
For every animal added to the Neutersol l
ist, it means more tests and more animals killed. 
Dubious Benefits
Importantly, Neutersol does not have some
 of the benefits of traditional spay/neuter programs.  
While it does seem to eliminate the ability to 
produce sperm in male dogs, "It does not 
significantly decrease testosterone, which 
means that the hormone-driven behavior 
typical of male dogs is not reduced," according 
to Dr. Melanie Berson, Director Division of 
Therapeutic Drugs for Non-Food Animals, 
FDA/Center for Veterinary Medicine.  
Roaming, marking territory and aggression 
may not be reduced, which are reasons that 
many inexperienced dog-owners have for 
abandoning dogs in the first place.  It would 
seem that pet owners choosing Neutersol 
would be less than thrilled about this behavior, 
which is a disservice to both dogs and their human family. 
In addition, "Veterinarians and dog owners 
should be aware that diseases which occur 
as a result of or in conjunction with testosterone 
hormones (prostatic disease, testicular or 
perianal tumors) may not be prevented with 
this procedure," says Dr. Berson.  
The cost savings for using Neutersol are questionable, 
and there's no denying that animals were tortured 
and killed in lab tests over many years, and will 
continue to be used for experimentation in order 
to get this drug to more markets.  The results of 
using Neutersol are both less healthy for the 
animal and don't reduce behaviors that make 
dog ownership more difficult.  There seem to be 
a dearth of reasons why pet owners or shelters 
would choose Neutersol over traditional surgical 
sterilization, other than to make money for the 
drug manufacturer and the veterinarians who choose to use it.

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