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NC State Plays Pivotal Role in Revolutionary Feline Osteoarthritis Treatment

NC State College of Veterinary Medicine researchers Margaret Gruen and Duncan Lascelles played a key role in the first treatment for osteoarthritis pain in cats approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

On January 13, the FDA approved Solensia to control pain associated with feline osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition during which normal cartilage cushion in joints breaks down. longer lives can lead to more wear and tear on joints leading to increased osteoarthritis.

Zoetis plans to make Solensia available later this year, according to a company press release.

“This is a huge step forward,”says Lascelles, an internationally recognized leader in companion animal pain management research. “It’s a game-changing approach to the management of chronic pain.”

Solensia helps manage pain associated with feline arthritis, but does not directly treat the condition. The new drug is administered as an injection.

“It’s the first approval of a medication with a different action than non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in 20 years,” says Lascelles.

The first trial for the drug, developed by Zoetis, was conducted at the CVM by a team led by Lascelles, professor of translational pain research and management and director of the CVM’s comparative pain research lab. Gruen, now the assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the CVM, was a Ph.D. student in Lascelles’ lab and ran that initial study.

“While feline osteoarthritis isn’t curable, the pain from osteoarthritis can be effectively managed,” Gruen said in the Zoetis press release. “Pain is the primary experience of osteoarthritis, and when left untreated, it becomes its own disease state.”

Companion animals are living longer lives, and that means more wear and tear on joints, leading to an increased risk for osteoarthritis. However cats may be diagnosed with osteoarthritis as young at 6 months old, says Lascelles.

Osteoarthritis in cats is more difficult to diagnose and less understood compared to dogs with the condition, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Changes to feline joints are subtle, and may owners may not clearly observe some of the warning signs, including limping.

Lascelles’ influential work while at the CVM has led to deeper understanding of how to measure and treat animal animal pain, especially pain involved with feline degenerative joint disease. In 2017, he received the Excellence in Feline Research Award from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Winn Feline Foundation.

For more information on the FDA approval, go here.

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine