If your dog takes the heartworm preventative medication called Interceptor, or the heartworm and flea prevention called Sentinel, you may have trouble buying the product right now.
Novartis, the company that makes these products has stopped shipping them to veterinarians. Vets were not warned of the shortage, and many are only finding out about it when they go to re-order the products.
Novartis claims that there is no problem with either of the products. There is, however, a potential problem with the plant that manufactures them. The plant, located in Lincoln, Nebraska manufactures medications made for animals as well as several human medications. According to the Novartis website, this plant also makes the human products Excedrine, NoDoz Alertness Aid and Gas-X. Here is a statement from the website:
NCH is taking this action as a precautionary measure, because the products may contain stray tablets, capsules, or caplets from other products, or contain broken or chipped tablets.
As a result, the plant which makes these products (including the veterinary products) is closed and is currently being inspected. According to Pharmalot.com, in November this year, three other Novartis plants received a warning from the FDA for “significant violations”. It is unclear what these violations are. There are no know claims of toxicity or illnesses resulting from problems at any Novartis plants.
Novartis is hoping to get the plant up and running again
sometime in January although they have not given an exact date. (Added: We are now being told that the plant is finally up and running as of June, 2012 and we should have more product by August.) There are apparently stores of Interceptor and Sentinel already made and waiting to be shipped so hopefully, once the plant is open, it will not take long for the drugs to reach veterinarians.
If your pet is on Interceptor or Sentinel then there is no need to worry. There is no problem with the quality of these medications. There is no fear of contamination or other problems.
If Interceptor and Sentinel remain off the market for longer than expected, there are many alternatives. Ideally it is best to speak to your veterinarian to find out what heartworm and flea preventatives are recommended in your area. Many vets who normally prescribe interceptor will be prescribing a product called Heartgard instead. In regards to flea medications you can consider Revolution, Advantage Multi, Comfortis (just fleas, not heartworm) and Trifexis. In my practice we have sold a lot of Trifexis for people who want an oral heartworm/flea prevention. Unfortunately, Trifexis did go on temporary backorder (because of the high demand now that Sentinel is not available), but we have recently received a good amount of Trifexis.
Added: I have had many comments from people who do not want to give Heartgard because their dog may be an MDR1 sensitive collie breed. The concern is that Heartgard contains ivermectin. Did you know that Interceptor/Sentinel are not any safer than Heartgard for these dogs? I wrote an article about this here.
If you have been affected by this shortage, please leave a comment below! The more information we share, the better!