A single squirt to manage pain

People might take an analgesic or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to help manage pain, fever or inflammation associated with all sorts of conditions. Now a new Canadian company, Solvet, offers producers the same convenient option for treating cattle.

Meloxicam Oral Suspension is Canada’s first long-acting oral pain medication for cattle and can be used in cattle of all ages.

Meloxicam Oral Suspension is a liquid formulation recommended as a drench to make sure the animal gets the full dose. It’s small volume (3ml/100 lbs.) is simple to give and easy for animals to take by mouth, says Solvet founder Dr. Merle Olson.

Olson may be known to many readers as the co-owner of Alberta Veterinary Laboratories. Since it was founded in 2009, the company has developed and manufactured a number of products for livestock and pets at a facility in Calgary. Their business model is based on finding new solutions to old problems, Olson says.

“Veterinarians and their clients tell us what their needs are and a priority was a product for pain control. It had to have a label claim for pain and for castration because it’s the most common procedure done on cattle, and it had to have a price point low enough that there would be no reason for producers not to use it.

Researchers from industry and government co-operated on the projects to bring this new product to the Canadian marketplace. It takes a lot of research to get a label claim for pain control in animals because they can’t rate pain the way humans can. To complicate matters cattle tend to disguise pain and react instead to the stress of handling.

“It’s been a long road, but we did it and now we can celebrate,” says Olson, who unveiled the new product during the October CanWest Veterinary Conference at Banff, shortly after receiving the notice of compliance for Meloxicam Oral Suspension for cattle from Health Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate (VDD). The company is also pursuing label claims for horses and sheep so producers will have one product on the farm that’s effective for several species.

The feature of Meloxicam Oral Suspension that sets it apart from other NSAIDs currently licensed in Canada for use in cattle is its duration of therapeutic activity. One treatment gives up to 56 hours of pain control.

This compares to about six hours for the oral acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) bolus and 24 hours for the injectable NSAIDs, fluxinin meglumine (Banamine, intravenous only) and ketoprofen (Anafen).

With a longer duration of activity comes a longer meat withdrawal time of 35 days for oral meloxican, compared to 20 days for Metacam 20, six days for Benamine and 24 hours for Anafen.

Research to prove Meloxicam Oral Suspension’s efficacy and safety for licensing showed no adverse effects when the product was given at doses up to five times higher than the label dose for three days in a row.

Dr. Mike Jelinski and his colleagues at Veterinary Agri-Health Services, Airdrie, led the initial research project in co-operation with Olson, Agriculture Canada and Morison Farms of Airdie with funding from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency to fine tune the formulation and test blood plasma levels for efficacy and withdrawal times.

“It’s quite an achievement to have this licensed in Canada. It will be used for many painful conditions, but of importance is that it’s the first pain medication in Canada with a label claim for reducing pain associated with castration,” says Jelinski.

As of the new year, the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle will call on producers in consultation with a veterinarian to mitigate pain associated with dehorning after horn-bud attachment to the skull (typically two to three months of age) and when castrating bulls older than nine months of age. As of January 1, 2018, pain control will be required when castrating bulls older than six months of age to abide by the code.

Jelinski says the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has long been pointing to the need for more pain medication products for food animals. Its position statement posted on www.canadianveterinarians.net states,”Currently, some anesthetic and analgesic drugs are licensed for use in companion animals, but fewer are licensed for use in livestock or wild animals. The CVMA recognizes that there is an urgent need to approve anesthetic and analgesic drugs for food animal species, and to provide veterinarians and producers with appropriate withdrawal times for these drugs.”

Perhaps he had that in mind when he heard Dr. Hans Coetzee, now a professor of clinical pharmacology at Iowa State University, speak on his research using human meloxicam tablets for cattle and thought this was something that could be of interest to Olson.

Meloxicam is a drug that has been used around the globe for people and pets for many years, but not in Canada for cattle until 2009 when Metacam 20 injectable became available with label claims for relief of pain following disbudding calves less than three months of age and improving appetite and weight gain during recovery from diarrhea.

“The oral route of delivery is unique because the drug stays in the rumen longer than injectable products stay in tissues at therapeutic levels,” Jelinski explains. “The value in what Merle has done is that oral formulations overall are less expensive than injectables. The thinking was that a cost-effective product for pain control would encourage broader use by producers.”

In the past, pain medication was something veterinarians used in their practices but not often discussed with producers because there haven’t been many products available for use in cattle in Canada and those that were available were expensive.

“We’ve heard a lot more about pain control with the focus on animal welfare especially in the last five years as veterinary practitioners and students become attuned to using pain medication for food animals and the cost has come down quite a bit because of generic brands now available,” Jelinski explains.

Olson says the number one priority in Solvet’s business plan for the new product was to make sure it was affordable for all to use even though there’s really no competing product in the marketplace. It will be sold as a prescription drug through veterinary clinics, so ultimately it’s up to veterinarians to set the retail price.

“The producer gets pain control and performance benefits because the calves get back to eating right away,” Olson adds. “Producers who used it during our research trials saw the benefit and accepted it so well that they don’t want to be without it.”

Times are changing as evidenced by a spot polling of participants during the Beef Cattle Research Council’s October webinar on practical and effective pain control by Dr. John Campbell of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Thirty-six per cent of those listening in who answered the question, most of whom were beef producers, said that they regularly use some kind of pain control and another 11 per cent use pain control occasionally.

Campbell covered the beef code of practice, limitations of research techniques to evaluate pain in beef cattle, recent research on pain control, and pulled it all together to discuss pain management options for de-horning, castrating and branding.

Do simple things first, he advises. Use polled bulls, dehorn before the horn bud attaches, use local anesthetic for dehorning older calves (it’s easy to learn and very effective), castrate calves as young as practically possible, and consider use of NSAIDs for pain control after castration, dehorning and branding.

The webinar was recorded and is now available for viewing anytime at beefresearch.ca.

Contact your local veterinarian for more information about Meloxicam Oral Suspension.

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