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NEW YORK - Man’s best friend may have a new best friend after Eli Lilly and Co. won U.S. approval to sell its former blockbuster antidepressant Prozac to treat misbehaving mutts.

The drug, repackaged into a chewable, beef-flavored tablet to be called Reconcile, was officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs in conjunction with behavior modification training, the drug maker said on Wednesday.

The product gives new life to a drug that was once Lilly’s most lucrative medicine before it lost patent protection several years ago and sales evaporated in the face of generic competition.

“Lilly research shows that 10.7 million, or up to 17 percent of U.S. dogs suffer from separation anxiety,” Steve Connell, manager of technical, academic and consumer services for companion animal health at Lilly, said in a statement.

Canine separation anxiety can occur when dogs are left alone and manifests itself in a range of undesirable behaviors, such as destruction, excess barking, eating disorders or urinating or defecating in the house.

The drug, known chemically as fluoxetine hydrochloride, can minimize a pet’s distress from being left alone, Lilly said. It belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are used to treat human depression.

Lilly said veterinarians may recommend tests before diagnosing separation anxiety to rule out physiological rather than emotional causes of inappropriate behavior.

Reconcile will compete with Clomicalm from Swiss drug maker Novartis, a repackaged form of another older antidepressant from a different class of drugs that is also approved for separation anxiety in dogs.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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