Unsubstantiated Mass Hysteria Targets Trifexis

I don’t know what it is about the psyche of certain people. They yearn to choose conspiracy over the obvious, somehow garner security from their own distrust of everyone and live their lives looking for the next professional expert to expose as incompetent, unscrupulous and in league against them. In the face of difficult circumstances, these same people often feel the need to blame someone or something for their misfortune, that somehow pinpointing and targeting the reason for their problems, makes tough situations more easily accepted.

Atlanta-based consumer investigative reporter Jim Strickland was contacted by a so-called “victim” of the flea, heartworm and parasite preventive Trifexis, and was pointed to a Facebook page called “Trifexis Kills Dog.” The alleged canine victim had died within two days of taking the product according to its owner. It did not matter that dog was 12 years old, was under treatment for a serious endocrine disease called Cushings Disease and that Elanco (the animal division of Ely Lilly, the pharmaceutical that manufactures the product) paid to have a post mortem examination that found heart failure to be the cause of death, with no link to Trifexis. Heart failure is, however, linked to Cushings Disease, the aforementioned endocrine disorder this dog was under treatment for.

Nonetheless, this reporter saw an angle and remained undeterred, playing on the emotions of the type of people that are ripe for such news, regardless of lack of objective evidence to substantiate the story. The story came to my attention initially because a colleague of mine was quoted out of context for the report and follow-up article on the Trifexis story. My veterinary colleague, who has some experience in dealing with media, forgot the golden rule of talking to reporters, and that is to never answer them with one thought broken up in separate sentences.   Here is how it went down.

The reporter asked my colleague in light of the negative publicity of Trifexis, if he has ever seen reactions after administration of Trifexis to a dog. My colleague answered, “I sometimes see reactions. Reactions are not very common and it has never been anything beyond minor GI upset.”  The reporter printed, “I sometimes see reactions.”

The truth about Trifexis is that it is a very safe product for use in the prevention of heartworm disease, fleas and the three of the most common types of intestinal worm parasites in dogs. Where fleas and heartworm disease are serious year-round issues, such as here in Florida and other southeast states, Trifexis has been a life sustaining preventive product for some patients. 

I have been carrying Trifexis for the past two years, during which time I have sold thousands of doses for hundreds of canine patients. It is very popular for its all-in-one preventive approach, but in Florida where there is flea resistance to long-standing veterinary grade topical flea preventives; it has been especially successful in controlling flea outbreaks.  I have not seen one single serious reaction to Trifexis, just the occasional canine patient (about 1 in 40-50) whose gastrointestinal system cannot tolerate the product and experienced vomiting or diarrhea.  It is otherwise a good product for the vast majority of dogs who take it.

This situation is dismaying to me, not because I have pity for the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical company that makes Trifexis, but because it is yet another example of sensational, unethical reporting to a certain segment of people all too eager to buy it hook, line and sinker.  Some of the posts on the article, as well as the Facebook page, are difficult for veterinarians to stomach, with people accusing us of peddling this product, knowingly intoxicating countless dogs, thinking more about our revenue stream from the product than for our patients. One person wrote, “…I don’t know if I can ever trust another veterinarian ever again.”

To set the record straight, veterinarians recommend products like Trifexis because they safely prevent disease. While we earn a profit for the sale or medications, supplements, immunizations and medical services, the vast majority of us make our recommendations based on the well-being of the patient’s we treat. I would strongly discourage denying your dog the disease preventive benefits of a product like Trifexis on the basis of unethical reporting and certain types of people who choose to believe it over the judgment of their veterinarian.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

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