Seresto flea collars linked to thousands of animal deaths: Congress

(WXIN) — A congressional panel has recommended the recall of flea and tick collars linked to 2,500 pet deaths.

The Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Reform this week released a 24-page report on Seresto flea and tick collars.

The findings follow a 16-month investigation into problems with the $70 collar, which is designed to protect dogs and cats from fleas and ticks. Millions of flea collars have been sold since 2013.

Convenience is the main selling point. While most flea and tick treatments require monthly application, the collars claim eight months of protection for dogs and cats. They are designed to release small amounts of pesticides over the course of several months.

The product, originally manufactured by Bayer Animal Health, now owned by Elanco Animal Health, headquartered in Greenfield, Indiana, has been linked to 98,000 incidents of “unexpected effects” and 2,500 pet deaths, according to the subcommittee brought.

approval process

The subcommittee found that the EPA had rushed the collar’s approval process, using shady science. The EPA first became aware of potential collar issues in 2015, ranking Seresto collars “by a wide margin” the #1 spot for incidents involving flea and tick products.

Seresto collars had almost three times as many total incidents and almost five times as many “fatal” or “serious” incidents compared to the second most problematic flea and tick product. Canadian regulators didn’t approve the collar, ruling it posed “too great a risk to pets and their owners.”

Despite these issues, the EPA allowed the product to remain on the market, even after determining that Seresto collars caused “probably or possibly 45%” of the 251 pet deaths reviewed by the agency.

Within the EPA, some officials have expressed frustration at the continued availability of the Seresto collars and expressed relief at a report released by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting United States today in March 2021.

“I hope there is a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act request] for all related communications so that our emails are published,” wrote one scientist. “We’ve been shouting about this for many years.” Another EPA official wrote that they were hoping “this time someone can expose this travesty.”

Symptoms in Pets, Humans

Problems from the collar included lethargy, abnormal behavior, excessive grooming and vocalizing, vomiting, and diarrhea in pets. Irritated skin and lesions were also common. Some pets suffered from convulsions, muscle tremors, or lost control of body movements.

Some pet owners noticed the symptoms and removed the collars early, the report said, citing information from Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

But pets weren’t the only people at risk, according to PMRA findings. From 2012 to 2015, 357 pet owners reported problems with their collars. According to Bayer’s PMRA, there were a total of about 106 cases of “serious” and “moderate” incidents.

People reported things like hives and dermatitis. Some individuals have experienced respiratory and neurological effects, as well as dizziness, nausea, or throat irritation. The problems were “probably or possibly caused by contact with the Seresto collar,” the PMRA noted.

Canada’s regulators decided that the only way to stop the collars from causing problems was to ban them from sale in Canada. The PMRA denied Bayer’s request to sell the product within its borders.

The EPA compiled similar data, the subcommittee noted, but despite “overwhelming evidence” of potential problems, the US agency approved the product and allowed it to remain on the market for years.

downplaying the problems

According to a whistleblower, in 2017 at least one senior Trump administration official tried to “allay” concerns about problems with the Seresto collars.

“Upon orders from a senior EPA official, an EPA researcher directed two other EPA officials to stop raising concerns about Seresto via email,” the report reads.

From the report:

In September 2018, according to documents released via a FOIA request, an EPA scientist reported 125 pet deaths related to the Seresto collar in the second quarter of that year — “the highest number we’ve seen.” The scientist added that from August 30, 2017 to April 1, 2018, there had been 361 Seresto-related deaths, reflecting a trend of increasing deaths.

Things got even worse in November 2018, when another EPA scientist shared data for the third quarter, reporting 148 pet deaths. The scientist noted that the Seresto collar “was the only product where we’re seeing this trend.”

EPA inaction

The report claimed Bayer was aware of the issues with the collars. Even so, the EPA proposed only “limited actions” to address the issue. The agency met with Bayer in July 2019, although nothing appeared to emerge from the meeting and no regulatory action was taken.

Bayer rejected suggestions such as updating the warning labels on the products. The labels remained unchanged. Another proposal involved separate registrations for cat and dog collars to allow the EPA to better track the data. Bayer decided the measure was too onerous; An EPA product manager was sympathetic and agreed.

Following Elanco Animal Health’s acquisition of Bayer in 2020, Seresto’s collars “immediately became Elanco’s ‘Top Product Worldwide,'” according to the report. Bayer said it has provided its new owner with all relevant data on the collars.

Like Bayer, Elanco has not made any changes to the label in the US after March 2021 United States today report came to light. Seresto labels in Colombia classified the product as “highly toxic,” while the Australian label said “POISON.”

Recommendation of the panel

Elanco, the report said, continues to deny problems with the collars and has “taken the position that the safety and toxicity studies of the active ingredients in the collar do not support claims that the collar could cause serious harm to animals.”

The subcommittee began its investigation on March 17, 2021 — approximately nine years after the collar received regulatory approval.

After the 16-month investigation, the subcommittee made three main recommendations:

  • Recall Seresto collars and start canceling the collar registration
  • Strengthening EPA’s scientific review process
  • Improve incident data collection

“For too long, the Seresto collar has harmed many pets and their owners,” the report concluded.

Elanco said in a March 2021 statement that it plans to take no market action and that US adverse events are below 0.3%. It said it has sold more than 25 million Seresto collars since the EPA approved the product.


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