Drug companies cash in on curing animals

Joann Druze (R) comforts her 14-year-old cocker spaniel Coco as his cardiologist Dr. Jessica Gentile removes stitches from his recent pacemaker surgery.

Jeremy Hobson: The drug company Pfizer is getting ready to sell shares of its animal health business Zoetis to the public. Zoetis sells medicines for pets and livestock, and it brought in $4 billion for Pfizer last year.

Marketplace's Mark Garrison reports on the lucrative business of treating animals.


Mark Garrison: Joann and Lance Druze and their 14-year-old cocker spaniel Coco are in the Manhattan waiting room of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, which does specialty and emergency care. Coco's got plenty of energy, so you wouldn't know unless you saw the stitches on his neck that he got a pacemaker just three weeks ago.

Coco's cardiologist Dr. Jessica Gentile is in an exam room using an ultrasound to see the heart of a bulldog named Champ.

Jessica Gentile: Almost anything that you can do for a person now, we can do for an animal.

At BluePearl and places like it, that means neurology, advanced cancer care, and more. It also means major out of pocket expenses for pet owners. Lance Druze says Coco's treatment cost nearly $10,000. Joann Druze says they didn't hesitate to pay.

Joann Druze: The money doesn't mean a thing. It's: What is important that you have my beautiful dog in my life again, which I love.

Pet owners like the Druzes present new opportunities for drug companies and medical device makers. But there are limits to what some people will spend. Dr. Steve Budsberg is a veterinary medicine professor at the University of Georgia.

Steve Budsberg: We deal with that on a day to day basis. It doesn't make people good people and bad people. It's a choice of where they're gonna use their money.

That spending ceiling is part of why the more important market for drug companies is livestock. Dr. Jon LeCroy tracks pharmaceutical stocks for MKM Partners.

Jon LeCroy: As third-world countries begin to eat more protein, have better economies, that's where the real growth has been.

With more farmers feeding a growing hunger for beef, chicken and pork, drug companies are providing new vaccines and treatments. Texas A&M veterinarian Dr. Tom Hairgrove works with ranchers. He says drugs are more expensive now, but worth it because they keep the animals healthy and growing.

Tom Hairgrove: We're able to produce more beef with less cows.

And more money for drug companies.

In New York, I'm Mark Garrison for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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