Collagen source dries up in veterinary medicine

C.R. Bard reportedly no longer sells to veterinarians

October 26, 2009 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala
Human collagen is becoming scarce in veterinary medicine, with supplier C. R. Bard Inc. now reportedly refusing to sell the tissue to new veterinary customers, those without existing company accounts.

Reasons behind the change remain a mystery. Bard Vice President and Treasurer Scott Lowry, the company's media relations contact, says that he will look into the issue and had no idea that the company sold collagen to veterinarians. During a separate phone inquiry, an unidentified woman at Bard noted that the company's collagen is not tested on animals, so she was uncertain about whether or not it could be sold to DVMs.

 Veterinarians use human collagen off label to treat difficult cases of urinary incontinence in female dogs, usually in instances where medications have failed to correct the condition. Dr. Matt Vaughan, a boarded internist with Seattle Veterinary Specialists, recently tried to acquire it from Bard but was turned away.

"Apparently they're not selling directly to veterinarians anymore if they don't have an account," he says. "I'm pretty disappointed. It's not a common treatment but one that can be a benefit in dogs that don't respond to drugs.

 "To my knowledge, most of the veterinary internists are using the Bard products," he adds. "I don't know where else to get it."

Neither does Dr. Joe Bartges, a VIN consultant, internist and professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, who has been hunting for alternative collagen sources since last week.

 "I am not aware of any other company manufacturing glutaraldehyde-linked collagen — only Bard," he says. "There are other compounds that are approved by FDA for use in women that are made by other companies, but they are much more expensive and some are difficult to inject (according to product information), and I haven't found where they have been used in dogs. That's all I know for time being."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health regulates tissue products like human collagen for use in human medicine, and Bard, based in Covington, Ga., is listed among those licensed to sell it.

 While FDA officials could not be reached immediately, a search on the agency's Web site reveals that Bard received two warning letters from regulators, the most recent dating from July 2008. It notes that inspections of the company's manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico, following a series of consumer complaints, revealed that Bard mislabeled some products and sold defective products, among other violations.

Nothing within FDA's searchable documents shows any crackdown on sales of collagen or the unlicensed use of it, particularly among veterinarians. As for acquiring human collagen from another source, Dr. Julie Stegeman, an internal medicine specialist with Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital, says that the dry spell is now a moot point in her practice.

 "Our surgeons just got back from a meeting (American College of Veterinary Surgeons symposium) and are all excited about a new surgical procedure that works like a lap band for the bladder," she says. "It involves external compression around the base of the bladder."

That lecture was put on by Christopher Adin, DVM, Dip ACVS, an assistant professor of Small Animal Surgery at The Ohio State University, whose research interests include urinary incontinence.

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