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FDA lowers population estimates for cats, horses

Estimates used for determination of minor uses status in major species in animal drug regulations.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said June 2 it is revising its estimates of the numbers of cats and horses in the U.S., based on information from the American Veterinary Medical Assn. (AVMA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

FDA said the population estimates from both species have decreased since the last estimate, made in 2014.

FDA relied on the most recent (2018) AVMA survey to revise the population estimate of cats in the U.S. downward from 74 million to 58.4 million, a 21% decrease. For horses, FDA utilized both the AVMA survey and information from USDA’s periodic surveys of farm animal populations to estimate the U.S. horse population at 3.8 million. This is a 22% decrease from the previous estimate of 4.9 million horses.

FDA explained that population estimates are important for helping determine potential eligibility for drugs to be used for “minor uses” — when the intended use of a drug is in a major species (horses, dogs, cats, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens) for a disease or condition that occurs infrequently or in limited geographic areas and in only a “small number” of animals annually. Such “small numbers” are set through rule-making, but accurate population estimates have an effect upon whether a particular disease or condition qualifies as a minor use, FDA said.

In essence, if the population decreases, the likelihood of a particular disease or condition being considered a minor use increases, the agency added.

The Minor Use/Minor Species (MUMS) program is part of FDA’s continuing mission to assure that safe and effective animal drugs are available to meet the health needs of a wide range of diverse species. New animal drugs that are intended for minor uses in major species or for use in minor species qualify for certain incentives, including MUMS Designation, Conditional Approval and waivers from user fees.

FDA said MUMS-designated drugs are eligible to receive exclusive marketing rights and grants to support product development and approval. Conditional Approval permits quicker access to the marketplace.

“Minor species” are all animals other than humans that are not one of the major species. They include animals such as parrots, zoo animals, ornamental fish, ferrets and guinea pigs. Some animals of agricultural importance are also minor species, including sheep, goats, catfish, game birds and honeybees, among others.

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