Equine Cushing's Drug Pergolide to be Withdrawn for Human Use

The FDA has announced pergolide is to be voluntarily withdrawn for human use. Pergolide is commonly used for horses with pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), also known as equine Cushing's disease.

According to the FDA announcement, all pergolide products (Permax and two generic formulas) will be withdrawn for human use. Pergolide has been used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease. Concerns about the serious risk of damage to patients' heart valves led to the withdrawal.

Barbara D. Forney, MS, VMD, noted in the 2007 revised edition of Understanding Equine Medications that no information could be found on side effects of pergolide in horses.

Regarding the withdrawal, Forney said some other drugs removed from the human market in the past are now available for veterinary use via compounding pharmacies.

Forney said she doesn't anticipate a major change in the availability of the drug for equine use.

"The reality of it is that most of the horses that are on pergolide are already using a compounded product because of the way the drug is dosed and economics, so it probably won't change much," Forney stated. "But it does highlight why ethical compounding is really important to veterinarians."

FDA Department of Public Affairs spokesperson Sandy Walsh said the manufacturers could also make the drug directly available for veterinary use.

"Pergolide is not an approved animal drug," Walsh said. "As for deciding whether or not the product will be available for vet use, it depends on the company. If they want to make it available for animal use, that is their prerogative."

Walsh noted three other dopamine agonists without the same risk of side effects are available for human patients.

To read the FDA withdrawal notice click here.

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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