Elanco looks to acquire stake in geriatric pet meds

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GREENFIELD — Pets are living longer, says veterinarian Dr. Bob Barnes of Mt. Comfort Animal Hospital.

Veterinary care has advanced, pet food has improved and people take better care of their companion animals than they did 30 years ago. One hardly ever sees dog houses in yards anymore, he continued, because most pets live indoors with their owners.

“We have changed that perception of what dogs and cats are,” Barnes said. “They went from just being around to being part of the family. That’s a big difference.”

Because pets are experiencing longer lifespans, many of them run into the same ailments that humans do in old age, like cancer and arthritis. Major organs start to fail.

“They’re mammals, and they get the same stuff we get as we get older,” Barnes said.

Now, Elanco Animal Health is taking a major step to tap in to the growing market for such specialized care of older pets. Already a major player in the development of medicines for companion animals, the Greenfield-based company on Friday announced plans to buy one firm and work with another in the development of treatments for conditions like canine osteoarthritis and cancer.

Elanco said it had signed an agreement to acquire Kansas-based Aratana Therapeutics for $234 million in stock. Aratana develops therapeutics for dogs and cats and has a drug for canine osteoarthritis.

Along with Aratana’s canine osteoarthritis drug, Elanco would also be adding to its portfolio the only FDA-approved veterinary therepeutic to stimulate appetite in dogs and an anesthetic that provides up to 72 hours of post-operative pain relief following certain surgeries in cats and dogs.

Elanco believes the products would benefit from its broader presence in the United States in pursuing international approvals. Aratana also has a pipeline of five pet product candidates in development for conditions like dermatitis, pain, inflammation and oncology, Elanco said.

“We look forward to putting greater energy behind these brands with our increased share of voice in the field while leveraging Aratana’s strong presence in the specialty market to capitalize on new opportunities for key existing Elanco companion animal therapy brands,” Elanco president and CEO Jeff Simmons said in a news release. “We believe the deal would bring greater value to veterinarians and pet owners, as well as both Elanco and Aratana shareholders.”

Elanco also signed an agreement with Colorado-based VetDC to commercialize its canine lymphoma treatment — the first to be conditionally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

VetDC’s canine lymphoma drug is well-tolerated and designed to kill affected dogs’ lymphoma cells through up to five 30-minute intravenous treatments, Elanco said. The drug has a 100 percent response rate when used as a first-line treatment and a 64 percent response rate for relapsed dogs, the company said.

The terms of Elanco’s agreement with VetDC were not disclosed.

Both business moves are part of Elanco’s formation of “a commercial team dedicated to the veterinary specialty business focused on bringing new and innovative products to the growing veterinary specialty category,” the company said in the news release. If the Aratana transaction is approved, the company would transition into that commercial team.

Simmons echoed Barnes’ stance on pets living longer and attributed the boost to improvements in veterinary medicine, like vaccines.

Barnes said his veterinary practice regularly deals with cancer. There aren’t a lot of therapies outside of surgery, he continued, adding he welcomes advancements in that field.

Not only are options limited when treating pets’ cancers, Barnes said, but they often require out-of-pocket expenses.

“Everybody’s got a number,” he said. “Everybody’s got an idea of what they’re willing to spend. And everybody’s different, every family’s different. That’s a decision that — with the advice from the clinician, from the veterinarian and their own situations — they have to figure out for themselves. My opinion is we can only offer options. We can’t dictate therapy.”

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Special reporting for this story was provided by Greg Andrews of the Indianapolis Business Journal.

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Some facts about canine cancer:

  • About 3 million dogs diagnosed each year
  • About 300,000 dogs per year receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy for cancer
  • One in four dogs will develop cancer during their lifetime

Source: Elanco Animal Health

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