AR-News: Neutersol: More Harm than Good
bill at friendsofanimals.org
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.
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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