FDA approves first feline arthritis pain treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first treatment to control pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats.

Solensia from Zoetic Inc. It is also the first new monoclonal animal drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in any animal species.

In a news release Thursday, the agency explained that frunevetmab — the active ingredient in Solensia — is a cat-specific monoclonal antibody designed to recognize a protein called nerve growth factor that is involved in pain regulation and attachment.

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When the ingredient binds to nerve growth factor, it blocks the pain signal from reaching the brain.

Solensia is formulated to help improve the quality of life for a cat with osteoporosis.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition in which the natural cartilage cushion in the joints breaks down. The bones in the joint rub against each other, causing pain, reduced joint movement and sometimes bone spurs or other changes in and around the joint.

The condition gets worse over time, and Solensia is formulated to help improve a cat’s quality of life.

“Treatment options for cats with osteoarthritis are very limited. Advances in modern veterinary medicine have been instrumental in extending the lifespan of many animals, including cats. But with longer lifespans come chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis,” Stephen M. Solomon, Director of The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in a statement. “Today’s approval represents the first treatment option to help provide relief to cats with this condition and may significantly improve their quality of life. We also hope that today’s approval of the first monoclonal antibody by the FDA for any type of animals to expand research and development of other monoclonal antibody products to treat animal diseases.”

The company announcement: Mike MacFarland, chief medical officer of Zoetis, said in a report. “The approval of Solensia is an important step forward in controlling rheumatoid arthritis pain in cats. Cat owners and veterinarians alike can feel confident that Solensia, with the active ingredient frunevetmab, is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) designed specifically for cats. It has been studied and proven to control arthritis pain and help cats get back to moving more freely again.”

The Food and Drug Administration evaluated Solensia’s effectiveness in two studies that included three clinical evaluations measuring different aspects of pain associated with osteoarthritis in cats.

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The trials were masked, randomized, controlled field studies involving client-owned cats with clinical signs of arthritis and subject veterinarians evaluated the cats based on orthopedic examinations before and after treatment.

Cat owners reported baseline levels of cat impairment during certain activities compared to before they developed osteoporosis. The owners then evaluated their cats’ responses after receiving the treatment.

Cat lying in the sun in a backyard

Cat lying in the sun in a backyard

In general, the cats in the treatment group had better evaluation scores than those in the control group.

Solensia is only available with a prescription from a licensed veterinarian because professional experience is required to properly diagnose osteoarthritis in cats, administer the injection and monitor the safe use of the product.

Solensia is given by injection once a month, with the dose determined based on the animal’s weight.

The most common side effects in cats treated with Solencia include vomiting, diarrhea, injection site pain, scaling on the head and neck, dermatitis and itching.


The FDA said the effects were “relatively mild” without the need to “discontinue treatment.”

“The FDA encourages cat owners to work with their veterinary team to report any adverse events or side effects potentially related to the use of any medication, including Solensia,” the agency added.

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