Earlier this week, Merck Animal Health announced its “Five Steps to Responsible Beef” in response to concerns over its beta agonist product Zilmax (zilpaterol hydrochloride). On Friday, the company took further steps, and announced it will temporarily suspend sales of the product during a study period. The company issued the following statement:
At Merck Animal Health, the health and well-being of animals is our first and foremost priority. We also take very seriously our commitment to providing safe, effective products that are developed based on comprehensive research, rigorous testing and sound science. We believe in the science that supports Zilmax and are confident in its safety and performance. Reinforcing this science and data-based approach, Merck Animal Health has announced it has strengthened its commitment to its Five-Step Approach to Ensuring Responsible Beef.
As previously announced, Merck Animal Health, in conjunction with independent experts, will conduct a scientific audit, which will monitor the process of feeding of Zilmax, and will follow identified cattle from the feedyard to the packing plant to determine potential causes of lameness and other mobility issues during feeding, transportation, offloading and staging at the processing facility. We also will do a thorough review of potential compounding factors-such as nutrition, transportation and receiving facilities.
In support of our customers and to ensure effective implementation of our five-step plan, Merck Animal Health has made the decision to temporarily suspend sales of Zilmax in the United States and Canada. This will allow sufficient time for the establishment of valid study protocols, identification of feeders and packers to participate in the audit, and creation of a third-party team to oversee this process and validate its results.
"We remain confident in the safety of the product, based on our own extensive research and that of regulators and academic institutions, and are committed to the well-being of the animals that receive it," says KJ Varma, BVSc, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVCP, Senior Vice President Global R&D, Merck Animal Health. "This important step demonstrates our commitment to providing our industry partners with data that will reaffirm confidence in Zilmax. We sincerely regret that this situation creates business challenges for our customers but it is critical to ensure that this process is conducted appropriately and with rigorous scientific measures.
After the five-step plan is completed, the results will be shared publicly."
In addition, we are also accelerating the development of our Merck Animal Health Advisory Board, which will bring together industry experts, producers, academics and company leadership to promote an open dialogue on animal well-being and help shape and strengthen the company's animal health and well-being program in the future.
Zilmax sales in the United States and Canada were $159 million in 2012. Visit the Zilmax Information Center for more details and updates on Zilmax.