Medication for deadly cat ‘coronavirus’ soon to be available in US

Many cat owners are rejoicing at the news that a drug used to treat an otherwise fatal illness for cats will be available in the United States as of June 1. 

“Stokes Pharmacy has formed an exclusive partnership with the Bova Group to offer a U.S.-made compounded oral treatment for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP),” according to a statement from Stokes Pharmacy, a New Jersey-based compounding pharmacy. 

Bova, a veterinary pharmaceuticals company based in the U.K. and Australia, began selling GS-441524, a drug compound to treat FIP, in 2021 — but the drug was not available for sale in the United States. 

“This treatment is supported by Bova’s unique drug formula, which has been used in clinical research studies across the globe and is currently in use in the U.K. and Australia,” said Stokes. 

Fox News Digital reached out to Stokes Pharmacy for further comment. 

In a May 10 statement, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there are “certain conditions where the agency does not intend to take enforcement actions for compounded products for use in animals,” and that the drugs are still not technically FDA-approved. 

A drug that has been used in other countries to successfully treat FIP – an illness that kills cats unless treated – is now available in the United States. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

FIP is a “viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus called the feline coronavirus,” according to the website for Cornell University’s Feline Health Center. 

While most feline coronaviruses are relatively harmless and resolve on their own, the virus sometimes mutates into what is known as FIP. 

“Once a cat develops clinical FIP, the disease is usually progressive and almost always fatal,” the Cornell website states.

While most feline coronaviruses are relatively harmless and resolve on their own, the virus sometimes mutates into what is known as FIP. AFP via Getty Images

Until now, U.S. cat owners have had to turn to the “black market” to obtain a drug that was not yet approved in this country. 

FIP Warriors, a group founded in March 2019 that helps connect cat owners with medications needed to treat their cats, told Fox News Digital that they are “cautiously optimistic” at the news that veterinarians will be able to prescribe treatment for cats with FIP. 

Still, the group noted, “We have very little factual information at this time and eagerly await more details from Bova and Stokes to become available. We are in direct contact with Bova and will be sharing all updates we receive with the entire FIP Warriors community.” 

“It is a huge triumph that FIP — which has been considered a fatal disease for so long — is now able to be legally treated by veterinarians,” an activist told Fox News Digital. AFP via Getty Images

“Our sincere hope is that a safe, affordable and easily accessible medication option will help treat and cure as many FIP cats as possible and that this is a positive first step toward that goal,” the group added.

“We will continue our diligent work to educate both veterinarians and cat parents as the FIP landscape evolves.”

One of the cat owners helped by the FIP Warriors organization told Fox News Digital about what she went through to save her cat. 

Jessica Guyette, a resident of Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital that she returned home from a trip to discover that one of her two cats had lost a significant amount of weight and was acting strangely. 

After several vet visits, Guyette was informed that her cat had FIP — and that there was nothing legally that could be done. 

A veterinarian “secretly suggested” that she turn to online groups to acquire the drugs that might save her cat, which is what led her to FIP Warriors. 

“At this point, there were no other options,” she said. “She was still losing weight, very lethargic, and I could tell that she was dying.” 

Guyette said her cat started to feel better within 48 hours. AFP via Getty Images

Guyette, who works as a researcher for the National Institutes of Health, said she and her cat saw quick results.

“Within 48 hours, I could see that my cat was starting to feel better, and within a week she was back to normal,” she said — describing the overall experience of trying to save her as “terrifying.” 

She added, “I brought her in [to the vet] every month to run blood tests and the vet was astonished to find that she was back to normal, when she had been on the brink of death.”

Activist and author Hannah Shaw, founder of the nonprofit organization Kitten Lady, also treated her own cat, Coco, for FIP using black market drugs and documented the process on her YouTube channel, “Kitten Lady.” 

“It is a huge triumph that FIP — which has been considered a fatal disease for so long — is now able to be legally treated by veterinarians,” the California-based Shaw told Fox News Digital via email.

Shaw’s latest book, “Cats of the World,” will be released in October.

In the past, when veterinarians were told to “remain hands-off” when advising cat owners about treating FIP, it was “confusing and isolating for people who discover that their cats have been diagnosed with the disease,” she said.

Even more frustrating, said Shaw, was how “animal advocates have been successfully treating cats for FIP for a number of years, but navigating that care has been incredibly complicated for the average cat guardian.” 

Coco, one of Shaw’s cats, developed FIP while undergoing chemotherapy, she told Fox News Digital.

It was only due to “total strangers on the internet” that Shaw was able to obtain the medication and successfully treat Coco, she said.

“GS-441524 completely cured her of FIP, and thanks to the drug, I got another amazing two years with her,” she said. 

The ability for veterinarians to discuss FIP treatment with cat owners and for the drugs to be obtained through legal means is a “massive win,” Shaw said, “and is going to help so many people save their cats’ lives.” 

“This moment is the culmination of years of research, advocacy and activism from a movement that is sick of seeing cats die due to lacking access to lifesaving treatment, and it’s a huge cause for celebration,” she added.

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