In the warm Southern California climate, flea season is year round. And over the next few months, Taffy became Scrappy. Her long lustrous fur fell out, to be replaced with that hyperlichenified elephant skin indicative of massive irritation. Her skin was one raw welt.
The only way to keep her comfortable was to shave her short like a rat, dose her up on steroids like a Mr. Olympia wannabe, and routinely smoke out the house with nasty-smelling flea bombs probably just as bad for us as they were for the fleas.
Then Advantage came out.
Oh, Advantage came out, and the clouds parted and the sun shone down on us and everyone else battling with massive flea problems like a fairy flea-mother of mercy. For pets with severe flea allergies, it really was a lifesaver. The last few years of Taffy’s life were spent in blessed relief, with a full body of fur and normal-looking skin.
As a parasiticide, Advantage and the slew of competitors that came after it were regulated by the EPA, not the FDA. It is not, and never has been, a prescription item. Bayer, the manufacturer of Advantage, made an agreement with veterinarians that the only people they would sell it to were veterinarians. It was a nice business arrangement- Advantage quickly became the leader in the market, vets got to be the sole distributors, and pets got to live flea-free. Everybody wins.
Over time, Advantage began to pop up in places it wasn’t supposed to be- retail outlets, online stores, pet shops. Sometimes it was counterfeit product. Much of the time it was “grey market”- authentic product obtained in a manner not entirely within the original agreement. It was not illegal for those places to sell it, though they weren’t technically supposed to have it. The writing was on the wall for vets, as each year it became easier and easier to obtain. Other, newer products were more easily accessible to owners who didn’t want to make a trip to the doc just for flea products.
Bayer, along with Merial (makers of Frontline) finally capitulated to the undeniable allure of big-market distribution and ended their agreement to distribute their products solely through veterinarians. As of this month, Advantage will be available in our local PetSmart, Costco, Target, and whoever else wants to sell it. I just saw some on OVERSTOCK, for goodness sake.
Many vets were incensed. Flea products were very profitable, very useful, and a great way to start a dialogue with owners about flea allergies and skin disease. They’ve spent the last 12 + years building up these brands, only to have the manufacturers take away their ability to be the sole distributor once that partnership bore fruit.
I don’t own the practice I work in, and our clinic’s Advantage sales do not affect me directly so I admittedly have less of a stake in this issue than many. I’m sure it’s harder to be philosophical when it’s your small business taking a hit, but to me, I’m just happy a good product is becoming even more accessible.
Several times a month, I see a pet with the classic signs of pyrethrin toxicity associated with inappropriate use of over-the-counter spot on treatments. In addition to just not working very well, these product reactions can be severe and life threatening. If these sorts of events can be prevented by having a superior product right there on the store shelf at a competitive price, I’m all for it.
Besides which, we just started carrying Comfortis. It’s all good. 🙂