All new drugs intended to treat human diseases must first be tested in animal models, providing a rich source of data for veterinary applications. However, few biotechnology companies consider targeting veterinary diseases, even though animals and humans often experience similar diseases and respond to similar treatments. “Opportunities to improve the quality of life for companion animals with serious illnesses are too important to go unexplored,” says Roy.
The Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. FDA regulates the development of drugs for pets. “People think it’s faster to gain approval for animal drugs, but that’s not necessarily the case,” explains Roy. The testing of pet drugs often can be as rigorous as for human drugs. “It is critically important that new technologies for veterinary use are evaluated in clinical veterinary settings and optimized for the unique demands of veterinary clinicians, patients, and their owners.”
There are 75 million pet dogs and 82 million pet cats in the United States, and Americans spend $13 billion on veterinary care yearly. Recent surveys show that more than one-half of pet owners consider pets to be members of the family and are willing to spend significant amounts on their healthcare. Even during economic downturns, spending on pet healthcare holds steady. “More and more people are willing to pay for high-quality care for their pets,” says Roy.