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Fido's Prescription

More and more, the New York Times' Andrew Pollack writes, people consider their pets to be part of the family and are more willing to spend greater sums to treat them when they fall ill. And biotech entrepreneurs are wondering, why there aren't more treatments available for cats and dogs.

"I was really a little struck by the fact that the biotechnology industry didn't really participate in animal health at all," says Steven St. Peter, a co-founder of pet biotech Aratana Therapeutics. "There was this very large industry that was ripe for innovation."

There are already, of course, treatments for pets for things like fleas, ticks, and worms, Pollack notes, and some human drugs have been adapted for pet needs. For instance, Prozac is sold as Reconcile to treat separation anxiety in dogs. But these new companies are exploring treatments for pets with cancer or arthritis — Herceptin or Humira for furry friends.

Such drugs though, even if given in smaller Rover-sized doses, will likely prove expensive. And, some critics tell Pollack, there might not be as much as a market for them as some might think.

"There are not a lot of unmet needs that are out there in the veterinary drug field," Bob Fountain from Fountain Agricounsel, a consulting firm in animal health, says. "Those who have tried to apply principles from the human market to animal health have had to have some lessons learned."