Atopica is an oral form of cyclosporine (CsA) modified for better absorption in the intestinal tract. Novartis manufactures Atopica for veterinary use in dogs; use in cats is considered “off label.” Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant which blocks white blood cells from organizing and responding to infection or invasion. The main use for Atopica in cats is to calm allergic skin conditions in otherwise healthy felines. Previously treated with corticosteroids, these reactionary conditions can now be treated without the long-term effects on liver, kidney and endocrine systems.
Cyclosporine has been approved for use in organ transplant patients since 1983, both human and veterinary. By the late 1990s, cyclosporine was used to treat ophthalmic conditions in dogs. A decade later, veterinary dermatologists had determined the usefulness of cyclosporine modified for oral administration in fighting allergic skin issues such as atopic dermatitis. As of 2009, the FDA had not approved Atopica for use in cats or in dogs less than 4.5 lbs. in weight, but veterinarians recommend and dispense Atopica for cats off-label.
Atopica soothes immune-system-based skin conditions in cats such as eosinophilic granuloma complex, sebaceous adenitis, Persian facial dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and feline asthma, along with many other irritating, itchy conditions. Recommended dosage of Atopica for cats varies from 2.27 mg per pound per day (5 mg/kg/day) to 5.45 mg/pound/day (12 mg/kg/day), often split in two doses. Atopica is used in cats to avoid the unpleasant health risks associated with long-term steroid use.
In 2004, at the Novartis Proceedings of the Fifth World Congress of Veterinary Dermatology, Dr. A. Vercelli from Italy presented findings that feline idiopathic pruritis (itching of unknown origin) was 86 percent clear after 30 days of Atopica therapy and completely cleared up in 90 days. When Atopica was used to treat eosinophilic granuloma (a feline allergic skin disease), cats showed 76 percent improvement in 30 days and 100 percent improvement in 90 days.
Atopica is formulated for oral use (cyclosporine modified) in several sizes: 10, 25, 50 and 100 mg. Capsules may need to be divided for proper dosing.
Atopica should not be given to pregnant or nursing cats, or to cats with immune disorders or existing infections. Suppressing the immune system response leaves cats vulnerable to secondary infection from viruses, bacteria and fungi. Cats with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and FIV (the feline version of AIDS) should not receive cyclosporine therapy. Keep cats on cyclosporine therapy indoors to reduce risk of infection with common outdoor immune threats such as toxoplasmosis.
Side effects of Atopica in cats are usually gastrointestinal, with soft stools or diarrhea. This should clear up with continued use over the first few weeks as the cat’s digestive system adapts to the medicine. While Atopica can cause vomiting in dogs, this side effect is rarely observed in cats.