Merck continues suspension of cattle drug’s sale

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A drug company has not decided when to resume sales of a beta-adrenoceptor agonist that had been used to add muscle to cattle.

Merck Animal Health published in December 2013 an announcement indicating the company was still evaluating the effects of Zilmax (zilpaterol hydrochloride), sales of which were suspended starting last August in the U.S. and Canada following reports of a possible connection between use of the drug and lameness. The company statement indicates the drug will return to those markets, but Merck will require that those who administer it or provide consultation on its use must be certified annually by Merck that they have received training on safe product use and handling.

The announcement stated that Merck also will require that participants pass tests on mixing practices before and after receiving certification.

Merck also plans to perform field evaluations in the first quarter of 2014, including evaluation of the mobility of cattle after Zilmax administration and of practices and conditions that could compound any problems. The company has pledged to make its field evaluation findings available to the public.

Cattle fed Zilmax over 20 days can gain approximately 30 additional pounds, according to information from Merck. The drug had been sold over the counter since 2006.

Related JAVMA content:

Cattle drug’s sales suspended after lameness reports (Oct. 15, 2013)