Immiticide (melarsomine dihydrochloride), the drug that is used to treat a heartworm infection in dogs, is no longer available. The makers of this drug, Merial, have announced that they have completely run out of stock. The outage may last several weeks or months.
Immiticide is a powerful drug that is given by injection to dogs in order to kill an active heartworm infestation. (It is not a drug that is used as a heartworm preventative.) Even though this drug has many serious side effects, it is still the most effective treatment that we have to use on dogs who have heartworm.
Merial has not released the reason for the immiticide shortage. All they have said is that there are “technical issues” in manufacturing the drug.
The American Heartworm Society has put out a bulletin to help veterinarians deal with this shortage. In some parts of the world, particularly the southern US states, vets will see dogs daily who need heartworm treatment and could die without it. This bulletin will help vets make a treatment plan for dogs who are positive for heartworm. You can read the bulletin here, and I will summarize it below:
If a dog has heartworm and receives no treatment, then yes, most heartworm positive dogs will die. However, the treatment outlined above should tide a dog over so that they can survive and then be treated once Immiticide is available.
I found this news story from Fox news interesting. This shelter takes in dogs every day who are positive for heartworm, and now they are unable to treat these dogs. They are having to euthanize dogs because they can’t cure the heartworm infection before adopting them out, and many people do not want to adopt a dog who has heartworm. The shelter has cut their adoption rate from $95 to $20 for heartworm positive dogs. Here is the story:
If your dog is not on a heartworm preventative medication, then get some now! These medications are inexpensive and work extremely well to prevent heartworm. They need to be given once a month. Your dog will need to have a heartworm test to be sure that he or she doesn’t already have heartworm before starting the medication.
If you have a dog with heartworm and have been affected by this recall, please leave us a comment and let us know how this drug shortage is affecting you.