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FDA approves new drug for cats that may improve their quality of life

The FDA said the drug can help manage pain from a degenerative condition. It's also the first monoclonal antibody treatment approved for any animal species.

For the first time, a drug aimed at treating osteoarthritis in cats has been approved for use in the U.S. It's also the first approved monoclonal antibody drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for any animal species.

The drug, Solensia, is not a cure for osteoarthritis. The FDA said the drug can help manage the pain from the degenerative condition and improve a feline's quality of life.

Osteoarthritis happens when cartilage breaks down, causing bones in joints to rub against each other. That can lead to bone spurs, pain and decreased movement, the FDA said.

The active ingredient is frunevetmab, which the FDA said is a cat-specific monoclonal antibody. It is "designed to recognize and attach to a protein called nerve growth factor that is involved in the regulation of pain." When that binding happens, it prevents pain signals from reaching the cat's brain.

“Today’s approval marks the first treatment option to help provide relief to cats that are suffering from this condition and may significantly improve their quality of life," Steven M. Solomon, the FDA’s Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in statement. "We also hope that today’s approval of the first monoclonal antibody by the FDA for any animal species will expand research and development of other monoclonal antibody products to treat animal diseases.” 

The approval comes after two masked, randomized, controlled clinical studies. Cat owners gave baseline scores of their cats' levels of impairment before and after treatment. This was assessed based on certain activities such as jumping onto furniture or using the litter box.

Solensia is delivered by injection. It must be prescribed and administered by a veterinarian. Side effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, injection site pain, scabbing on the head and neck and itchy skin. The FDA said these tend to be mild.

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