By Nancy Kerns -Published: June 21, 2022
On March 2, 2021, USA Today published an article about the Seresto collar, originally developed and brought to the market by Bayer Animal Health in 2012 (the product was purchased by Elanco Animal Health in 2020 and has been manufactured by Elanco since then). The article highlighted the fact that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had, at that time, received nearly 1,700 reports of animal deaths associated with use of the collar. Worried pet owners began flooding their veterinarians’ offices with calls about whether to remove their pets’ Seresto collars.
On June 15, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee held a hearing about Seresto collars. Following publication of the USA Today report in 2021, the Subcommittee had been investigating reports of adverse effect incidents and pet deaths potentially related to the Seresto collar. Last week’s hearing, the Subcommittee described, “will examine the EPA’s failure to regulate the Seresto collar as well as Elanco’s refusal to take action to protect pets and their owners from the collar’s harm.”
A number of witnesses testified in favor of demands that Elanco voluntarily recall the collar and the EPA cancel the product’s registration. These included owners of dogs who died after wearing the Seresto collar, the Environmental Health Science director of the Center for Biological Diversity (a nonprofit membership organization known for its work protecting endangered species through legal action), and a retired scientist/communications officer who previously worked for the EPA.
Defending Seresto’s efficacy and safety record to the Subcommittee was the President and CEO of Elanco. The company said the rate of complaints is a fraction of the overall sales – which have surpassed 34 million in the past decade – and that the rate has declined over the years. It also said that most incidents are classified as “minor” or “moderate” and that the pet did not suffer “any significant or permanent harm.” A link to Elanco’s complete statement is here.
No representative for the EPA appeared at the hearing, but the EPA submitted a statement (linked here), which explained that, following publication of the USA Today report in 2021, the EPA asked Elanco and Bayer, as the current and former registrants of the Seresto collar, to provide EPA with additional data on reported adverse effects of the collars. This information was received in May 2021, and is being analyzed by EPA, with additional help from the Food & Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM). According to an excerpt from the EPA’s statement, “With the consultative assistance of FDA, EPA expects to finish its scientific review of incident data and other studies by fall 2022. Upon completing its analysis and assessment, EPA will determine whether these pet collar registrations can still be used safely according to the instructions on the label or if additional safety measures or cancellations are needed for these products.”
Benjamin Disraeli is often quoted, “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Ideally, the adverse event reports for every pesticide and drug would be 100% available to the public to review. Without the ability for independent researchers to analyze these reports – as well as verify sales numbers for pesticide products – it’s hard to know how real the threat to any individual dog might be. We will be looking forward to seeing the EPA’s promised report this fall.