PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A trip to the vet with a sick pet often raises fears that you won’t have enough money to fix the problem. A local pharmacist hopes that his experience can save people time and a lot of money.
Adam Rice owns Spartan Pharmacy and its three locations, so he’s given many interviews to talk about drugs and vaccines. But he never thought his carbon lab, Shadie, would lead him on his new mission to spread awareness about pet pills.
Shadie just turned three, and despite her shaved parts, you’d never know she was knocking on death’s door.
“She’s still on the mend, but she’s finally my Shadie again and she’s a good girl,” said Rice, a good girl who got seriously ill in late February out of the blue.
“He was diagnosed with a condition called IMHA or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which is where the immune system attacks his oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the same way as an organ transplant patient, his immune system would attack someone else’s organ,” Adam said. Rice.
Adam Rice says Shadie tried all the usual medications to suppress his immune system—prednisone, mycophenolate, leflunomide—but nothing worked.
“It got to the point where we were in and out of the emergency vet every seven to 10 days to get a blood transfusion while we waited for these medications to take effect,” Rice said.
Rice owns Spartan Pharmacy, so he’s lucky to know more about medication than the average dog owner. And he had personal experience on his side.
“Interestingly, my previous lab, Bailey, who was a chocolate Lab, had the same condition and the only medication that ultimately worked for Bailey was cyclosporine and had not been tested by vets yet,” Rice said.
Novartis created the human version of the drug cyclosporine, and the company also funded an FDA-approved trial for use in animals, meaning veterinarians must first dispense the animal version called Atopica.
“And that’s only available in brand name form and it’s about $500 a box, so it would have cost me $1,000 a month to keep her on that medication and really who can afford that, right?” said rice.
Rice couldn’t, so instead of putting Shadie down, she asked, why can’t she get a recipe for the human version much cheaper? Veterinarian Dr. Steve Gross wrote the script to save Shadie’s life, and says he’s doing it more and more these days.
“Some of the antibiotics are sometimes much less expensive at a general pharmacy than at the vet, and unfortunately, especially in small places like us, we don’t have the ability to get volume discounts,” Gross said.
If pet owners can find cheaper alternative solutions to veterinary drugs, he thinks that will help pets in the long run.
“If we can save a few dollars on medication, it could be a few dollars so that we can do some blood tests that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do or take some x-rays that we wouldn’t have been able to do.” able to do, so there’s more diagnostic care we can do if people don’t need to worry about, ‘My God, my drugs are going to cost $300,'” Gross said.
Shadie was started on cyclosporine and began to improve rapidly. Rice shared her experience on social media, sharing it on her pharmacy’s Facebook page, hoping to educate.
“Now, if these veterinarians had known that there is a generic version of this cyclosporine that is the human form, that only costs $50 a box. If they had started that from the beginning, it could have saved me $10,000, $12,000,” Rice said.
Keep in mind that pharmacists will want to know if the medication you are dispensing is for a dog or a cat. Make sure pharmacists never compound a drug, because animals cannot tolerate certain sweeteners. And always ask the vet for a cheaper alternative or human medication alternative.
“He ordered them himself for his dogs under our direction with the appropriate milligrams and times per day and everything, then said, ‘Look, these things can be very expensive, I’m willing if anyone else has this problem to send them to me. and I’ll take care of them,’ and we’ve sent some people that way,” Gross said.
Because of what Rice went through with Shadie, Spartan Pharmacy now offers any animal diagnosed with IMHLA cyclosporine at cost, just $50 per box, 10 times cheaper than the animal alternative. It’s a move that saves costs and saves lives. Dr. Gross believes that all vets will have his back.
“Every vets I know around here are involved for the right reasons. They’re involved to try to help not only the animals but also the people who are with them,” Gross said.
IMHA symptoms include a steady decrease in your pet’s energy. You may notice that they can only cover a fraction of the distance in their daily walk and that they are panting heavily at the end of it.
Check your pet’s gums and tongue. They should be pink, not gray, indicating that the blood is circulating properly.
And the telltale sign is thin, watery blood that you’ll notice immediately as soon as your animal has a blood test.