Closed plant leads Novartis to plead for vet loyalty

Manufacturing problems and disruptions at Novartis ($NVS) plants in Nebraska and Canada led to shortages that created problems for consumers, doctors and their patients, who sometimes have few alternatives.

Among those affected are veterinarians, some of whom tell Veterinary Information Network (VIN) that they have gone elsewhere for meds and may be loath to return. This sentiment is troubling enough to the company that Novartis recently sent a pleading letter to vets saying it hopes to have animal medications to them soon and asking asking them not to bail out on Novartis.

The letter, which VIN nabbed a copy of, reads, "While we understand your need to do what is right for your business, patients and clients, we hope you will seriously consider saving us a spot on your shelves. We politely ask that you give your Novartis sales representatives a chance to earn back your business."   

The backups started 8 months ago, after Novartis closed its consumer drug plant in Lincoln, NE, in response to a long list of manufacturing deficiencies cited by the FDA. The plant makes some animal health products in addition to its OTC products. The situation was further complicated in February when Novartis' Sandoz division altered production at a plant in Boucherville, Quebec, while it addressed FDA concerns there. An alert from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association said the problems were affecting availability of 8 human drugs often used by vets, including morphine, diazepam and phenobarbital.

Novartis' animal care products include the usual flea treatments like Capstar and pain drug Deramaxx, but the big sellers, VIN says, are its anti-parasitics, Interceptor and Sentinel. As popular as they were, some vets just couldn't wait around and are not inclined to return to using them.

"I had 1,500 patients on Interceptor," Dr. John Daugherty, an Ohio vet, tells VIN. "We can't go a whole year without heartworm preventative. At this point, we have almost all of our clients switched over to something else. I'm not going to tell them next year that they now need to switch back."

That kind of response has to bug a company that Pharmalot reports last year sold $1.3 billion in animal drugs. It is interested enough in animal drugs that earlier this year it reportedly made an unsuccessful $16 billion offer for Pfizer's ($PFE) animal health unit.

- here's the VIN story 
- get more from Pharmalot

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