The press conference follows a more than year-long safety review of these products to help the agency better understand why an increasing number of adverse events were being reported. The review was initiated in April 2009 after adverse reaction reports jumped from 28,000 in 2007 to 44,000, including 600 deaths, in 2008, according to EPA. The jump may have been caused by increasing popularity and use of these products leading to greater chances of adverse events or mishandling, EPA says. While a majority of adverse event reports were considered minor, other reports were much more serious, including seizures and even death.
Noteworthy findings from the review, which was conducted by a panel of veterinary experts, includes inadvertent or intentional administration of canine spot-on flea products on cats. Smaller dogs were also more likely to suffer adverse events, Owens adds.
"(Current) label warnings simply are not working. They're inadequate," Owens says. To combat it, EPA is calling for new labeling requirements including warnings, a listing of possible symptoms, better labeling instructions, dosage guidelines for consumers and even possible restrictions of certain ingredients. No products are being banned, but Owens says EPA isn't ruling out such drastic measures in the future.
"These are products that are designed to kill fleas and ticks and they do their job, and so we urge pet owners and others who use these products to exercise caution and be very careful when they use these products on their pet," Owens adds.
Manufacturers of spot-on products have been receptive to EPA's proposed labeling changes thus far, Owens says. Labeling changes should start appearing on packages over the next several months. Companies that don't voluntarily comply with the new labeling requirements could face regulatory action, he adds.
A public information campaign was set to launch today (March 17) with a public Webcast scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Eastern time and a new information Web site for pet owners.