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Cats with feline infectious peritonitis virus treated with unlicensed remdesivir variant for up to $10,000 for a course


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This article from business insider on June 8 describes a black market for a variant of remdesivir (the only drug with evidence for effectiveness against covid-19) to treat cats with a coronavirus that causes feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)– an otherwise fatal disease unique to cats.  The drug, known as GS-441524, is made in China, and has been sold for more than a year through the facilitation of closed Facebook groups.  It is not approved by the US government and sales for the purpose of treatment are technically illegal.  Groups that facilitate the importation of this drug get around the law by advertising it as a nutritional supplement– which is unregulated.

According to business insider, “An academic who pioneered using the drug on cats says that a black market is the only option because pharma giant Gilead, which has the rights to GS, will not license it for use in cats.”  The Facebook group doesn’t directly sell the drug; instead, it connects buyers and sellers as a middleman.  These groups are also attempting to have the drug tested for purity, which is not guaranteed in drugs imported from China.

This American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) article from January describes the treatment, which requires a 12-week course of the drug.  It says that the drug has transformed FIP from a universally fatal ailment to one with an 80% survival rate.  The drug has been studied by Dr. Niels C. Pedersen, FIP researcher and professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine with encouraging results.

The coronavirus which causes FIP is not infectious to humans but shares many characteristics with SARS-COV-2, including sensitivity to remdesivir.

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