Cushing's Horses Sought for Pergolide Study

Elanco Animal Health (a division of Eli Lilly and Company), in collaboration with Michigan State University, Oklahoma State University, and Louisiana State University, is seeking horses with equine Cushing's disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (ECD/PPID), to participate in a research study.

The schools are recruiting cases of ECD/PPID to document the efficacy and safety of pergolide in support of FDA approval. Veterinary prescribed off-label use of pergolide in horses with ECD/PPID has been documented in the literature worldwide for nearly 20 years. An FDA-approved pergolide product for horses afflicted with ECD will assure access to and the uniformity and quality of a pergolide therapy for horses in the United States.


Horses nearing 15 to 20 years of age or older that have not shed out well in the spring for the past one or two years might be developing ECD/PPID. Additional signs can include increased water consumption and urination, loss of muscle over the topline, and possibly concurrent development of abnormal fat deposits, such as a crested neck and/or a bulge of fat over each eye. Another sign is unexplained laminitis and recurrent or chronic infections.

If one or more of these signs is noted in an aged horse, then the horse might be a candidate for the study. An initial evaluation, including laboratory testing, would confirm whether or not the horse would meet study criteria.

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Owner Responsibilities

Horses that are part of the study would be evaluated at the beginning of the study, and then after three and six months of pergolide treatment. Study drug, ECD/PPID testing, and all health evaluations would be provided free of charge. Horse owners will be required to document the daily dosing of medication to their horses and any side effects they might notice.

The three visits will require overnight hospitalization for testing (one night). Enrollment will occur between Nov. 3, 2008 and Jan. 30, 2009. Each horse will participate for six months total duration from initiation of treatment.

To be included in this study, horses should not have been treated with medications or dietary supplements recommended for ECD/PPID within 60 days of study pergolide treatment initiation.

Horse Donations

In addition to client-owned animals, the universities participating in the study might accept horses as donations. These horses would be enrolled in the pergolide study and maintained in paddocks in small groups for the six-month study period.

These horses would not be returned to the owners at the end of the study, and would be University-owned animals after donation.

Contact Information

If you have an interest in either bringing or donating a horse for this study, please contact:

  • Dr. Hal Schott, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., at 517/353-9710.
  • Dr. Dianne McFarlane, Physiological Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., at 405/744-2072
  • Dr. Frank M. Andrews, Equine Health Studies Program (EHSP), Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, Baton Rouge, La., at 225/578-9580
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