Relief in sight for global horse industry battling gastric disease

Millions of horse owners the world over are set to benefit from a more effective method to treat equine gastric disease, a common condition affecting horses, especially in thoroughbred racing and the endurance riding sector.

An eight-year joint project between the University of South Australia and animal health industry partner Luoda Pharma has produced a long-acting, weekly injectable medicine, which heals horses a lot faster than current treatments.

Lead researcher, UniSA pharmaceutical scientist Professor Sanjay Garg, says the current standard treatment for gastric disease – an oral paste – has to be administered daily into the horse’s mouth and sometimes is only 30% effective.

“It is not only time consuming but not all horses accept this treatment willingly. For maximum effect, horses also can’t be fed prior to the paste being administered,” Prof Garg says.

The new injectable formulation of omeprazole developed by UniSA and Luoda Pharma is now used widely in horses in Europe, with outstanding results, and has become the treatment of choice for many veterinarians.

“Gastric disease is extremely prevalent in high performance horses, with more than 80 per cent of racehorses and high-level endurance horses suffering from gastric ulcers. In other horses, the prevalence may be as high as 60%.

“Current treatments include histamine antagonists, such as ranitidine, oral proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole which reduce gastric acid production; and sucralfate and misoprostol also being used for their anti-inflammatory and mucosal protectant effects,” Prof Garg says.

UniSA chemist Krishna Kathawala played a key role in developing the new formulation – a sustained release injection – to overcome the lack of stability with the existing omeprazole paste.

Ulcers associated with gastric disease typically take more than a month to heal, with some ulcers still present after two or three months of daily treatment, says Dr Stephen Page from Luoda Pharma.

“Oral omeprazole pastes suppress acid production for around 9-16 hours each day. We have designed a long-acting injectable form of omeprazole which suppresses acid production for up to a week, with clinical reports indicating that in many cases healing has occurred in less than 14 days,” Dr Page says.

The condition not only has a detrimental impact on the health of affected horses; the economic impact on horse owners and the equine industry is significant, due to horses not performing well and the direct costs of treatment.

“With more than 58 million horses in the world, this product has extraordinary potential to improve the health and welfare of horses,” Prof Garg says. “Our industry partner plans to register the product worldwide to ensure all horses can benefit.

A patent for this novel technology is held by Luoda Pharma, who hold the commercial rights to the new medicine. 

Behind the research

Professor Sanjay Garg is a pharmaceutical scientist whose research is focused on novel anti-cancer drug delivery systems, nanotechnology, antibacterial compounds and formulations for superbugs, wound healing and veterinary formulations.

Luoda Pharma is an Australian pharmaceutical company that produces novel animal health products, solving unmet treatment issues in veterinary medicine.

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