Endotoxemia. Septic shock. Intestinal ischemia. What do all these ailments have in common? Based on recent studies, some researchers think an investigational drug called pirfenidone might be a treatment option for all three.

“Pirfenidone, which is currently approved for oral use in humans, is a unique drug with anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic (anti-scarring) properties that has promising benefits in the treatment of fibrotic conditions affecting the lung, heart, liver, musculoskeletal system, and kidney,” explained co-author Melinda MacDonald, DVM, PhD from the departments of surgery and radiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

To date, the exact mechanism(s) of action of pirfenidone remain unclear; however, previous studies have shown that pirfenidone regulates key fibrotic growth factors, inhibits pro-inflammatory cytokines (potent signaling molecules) such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, and increases the concentration of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

“Considering the potential therapeutic benefit of this drug in equine medicine, particularly for the management of endotoxemia, our research group evaluated the drug properties and clinical effects of intravenous pirfenidone,” said MacDonald.

According to the authors, intravenous administration was safe and the drug and was rapidly cleared from the bloodstream. Typical adverse events post-administration were only mild and transient and included tachycardia (a rapid heart rate) and muscle fasciculations.

The study, “Pharmacokinetic and clinical effects of pirfenidone administered intravenously in horses” was published in the July edition of the American Journal of Veterinary Research.