Needed: Chinese Black Market Drugs to Save Laurel
Update 10/27/21: Laurel has been adopted!
Levi was literally a gutter kitten. In 2006, he was found barely alive by a lady named Jean in a Lincoln gutter. Barely alive and flea-infested, she brought him to me at FieldHaven. He survived, grew, and thrived to become a very handsome teenager. Loving, playful, robust: he was the picture of health…until he was diagnosed with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). I was in denial and angry. I hated FIP and refused to accept that my beloved Levi had it. I was determined he would not succumb to it even though it was 100% fatal. Unfortunately, he did die, breaking my heart.
Over the years, whenever FIP would strike a kitten that had been lovingly adopted from FieldHaven, my heart broke all over again for the family. I knew the pain and would have done anything to take that away, but FIP is one of the most tragic causes of young cat deaths.
Miraculously, in 2021, we have a treatment for FIP. Just over a year ago in late 2019, the drug to treat it became available in America (albeit, “available” is used loosely in this sense). Getting the drug takes the determination only a cat lover whose baby is dying could muster. Veterinarians cannot prescribe it and to use it would jeopardize their veterinary license. The only channel for getting the drug is through an underground network that starts with a secret Facebook page. This leads to a connection with a person who become your case manager (or admin) and conduit to getting the drugs. We do not know if the admin’s name as we know it is a real name or an assumed one. You will learn to not care because they are leading you to the cure.
The cure is a drug called GS-441524 (GS), but each batch has a code name, like “Lucky,” “Cappella,” “Oscar.” It comes in an unmarked vial as a clear liquid and usually in a completely unrelated container like a cell phone box or a perfume box.
GS is smuggled into the US from the black market in China. Yes, we are securing black market, unlabeled drugs from China, for our cats – and paying a hefty price for them. Of course, we are. We love our cats, and the drug is curing them of a disease that just a few years ago was not just 99.9% fatal, but 100% fatal.
My adventure into the underworld of GS began in early January of this year. I knew GS was available, but had not had the unfortunate opportunity to need it, so it was like this phenomenon that I knew existed but did not really know about. In a bizarre twist, I was immersed into the underworld with not just one, but two cats in one weekend.
On Saturday morning, I got a frantic text from a volunteer. Joy Cratty’s kitten, Mochi had just been diagnosed with FIP! Mochi had been adopted from FieldHaven just a couple of months prior. He was a robust, healthy teenager until he was not. Mochi was supposed to be Joy’s healing cat while she recovered from cancer treatment. Now the tables were turned.
Immersing myself into this strange world was an adventure that I described in a previous post. Mochi is now into his last week of treatment and doing fabulous!
The following day, Sunday, I learned that Iris Witten had also just been diagnosed with FIP.
Early in the summer of 2020, dear FieldHaven friends Al and Carol Witten asked us to look for a special female black kitten for them. When Iris came along, the adoption team knew she was the one. Iris landed into the best home any kitty could ever hope for. When they messaged me on that early January Sunday that Iris had FIP, I was devastated.
I called them right away to tell them, “There’s a cure!” I am sure they thought I was still recovering from a long New Year’s party as I rambled on about an underground railroad of sorts for secret cures from China. I tried to sound reasonable, but I do not blame them for telling me they would talk to their veterinarian about it and would look at the information I pointed them to on the web.
It was a nail-biting couple of days. As I was hearing from Joy of Mochi’s improvement even in the first days of treatment, I knew Iris would be declining. Finally, the Wittens messaged me that they had discussed it with their veterinarian who told them there was nothing to be done. I cried but messaged back that I respected their decision.
A couple of hours later, they messaged me back. They wanted to try! Al and Carol connected with the same admin that Joy and Mochi had. Instructed to get medication going as soon as possible, I borrowed a couple of doses from Joy and Mochi until the Wittens could get into the pipeline. We started Iris on GS that very next morning.
We see Iris at FieldHaven every few weeks for her lab work. To watch her continually get better and better has been…well, miraculous, because it IS a miracle. She is now eleven days from the finish line of 84 days of initial treatment. The next phase is monitoring with continued blood panels and wellness checks. She has more than doubled her weight, her coat is glossy, and her eyes sparkle. Al and Carol’s eyes are sparkling, too – full of love and happiness for their sweet Iris and her emerging health.
Just as these two little FIP Fighters are making their mammas and daddies proud, a new fighter has come to FieldHaven who needs the miracle too.
Laurel, a four-month-old, kitten transferred from Stockton Animal Services last week is battling hard. At SAS, they could not identify her illness. FIP was a possibility after initial lab work was done. Although a progressive municipal shelter, SAS does not have the resources to continue exploring Laurel’s illness so they asked if we could take her.
After additional tests and x-rays, at least four veterinarians, and numerous “can you take a look” reach outs to colleagues, no one could say what was wrong with Laurel. There were discussions about if we should euthanize. Even the FIP experts could not say for sure if FIP is the cause of her critical illness. Some FIP disease markers were present but some were off the mark. She was critically anemic, had visual difficulty, hind limb weakness, and a very enlarged abdomen. Really, a mess, but she still was eating, purring, and enjoying interaction. On Wednesday, we went all in. She had a transfusion and we started her on GS.
It is now Saturday and Laurel shows improvement each day. Her eyes no longer have a cloudy covering, her hind legs are becoming stronger, she is eating like a horse. Can it be Laurel will be another FIP Fighter miracle? We are far from knowing at this point. She certainly has a long way to go but we must try with as long as she wants to keep up the fight.
She will let us know if she does not want to fight anymore.
Can you help Laurel fight? Her medication costs run about $350 per week with a full treatment being 12 weeks ($4,200) if she continues to improve. She needs monitoring lab tests and radiology as well. Fighting FIP is not easy, nor is it inexpensive, but we think Laurel is worth fighting for. Are you in with us?
You can donate for Laurel’s treatment via Paypal or credit card here.
FieldHaven Feline Center
2754 Ironwood Lane
Lincoln, CA 95648
ATTN: Laurel’s FIP Fight
More about FIP: