We Need More OTC Drugs

Can you imagine having to get a doctor’s visit every time you need Advil for a headache, or relief from cold symptoms, or something for an upset stomach’ Incomprehensible’ That’s pretty much the situation now with caring for our horses.

Merial — the same company that was the first to introduce the over-the-counter (OTC) sale of ivermectin and whose Recombitek West Nile vaccine is available directly to owners — now has a lower-dose form of their Gastrogard approved for OTC sales. We think this is a good thing, but not everyone agrees.

When a human-drug company comes out with an OTC form of their prescription drug, most consumers are unaware that the prescription drug is really the same product but at a higher dose. Professional horse people, however, tend to be savvier, and most already know the comparison between OTC Ulcergard and prescription Gastrogard.

Those who oppose OTC drugs claim to be concerned over the well being of the horse. Fair enough. We realize that if bute went OTC it wouldn’t matter if the packaging called for a maximum dose of 1 gram/day. Nearly everyone knows how to get up to the more potent 2 to 3 gram/day dosages. Would this lead to abuse’ Maybe, but not with responsible owners. The ones likely to abuse bute are doing so anyway.

We think a simple precaution on these drugs to not use for longer than a few days without veterinarian supervision would suffice, just as is found on human OTC drugs.

When dewormers first went OTC, those opposed cited dire consequences from taking deworming out of the realm of veterinarians. However, it’s fair to say that equine health has benefited tremendously from readily available, reasonably priced dewormers. With the appropriate testing and labeling, other commonly used drugs could go OTC, too.

Merial has blazed the OTC trail, with ivermectin, Recombitek and now Ulcergard. Yes, the motivation was their bottom line, but that’s OK. Putting safe products in the hands of horse owners, products similar to what they can buy at a drug store for themselves, is long overdue.

Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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