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Published:April 23rd, 2009 20:29 EST
Pharmacy To Blame In The Horses' Deaths

Pharmacy To Blame In The Horses' Deaths

By Christopher HIllenbrand

A spokesperson for a Florida pharmacy said her company was responsible for preparing the inappropriate dosage of a supplement that eventually killed all 21 polo horses this past weekend before they were to compete in a polo championship match.

According to the information obtained by The Associated Press, Jennifer Beckett, the chief operating officer from the Franck`s Pharmacy located out of Ocala, Fla., said that her business carried out an internal investigation and discovered that "the strength of an ingredient in the medication was incorrect." Her statement failed to shed light on what exact ingredient they over-prescribed.

"On an order from a veterinarian, Franck`s Pharmacy prepared medication that was used to treat the 21 horses on the Lechuza Polo team," the chief operating officer began in the memo released by The Associated Press. "As soon as we learned of the tragic accident, we conducted an internal investigation."

Beckett assured that the pharmacy was complying with the investigation being conducted by state officials and the FDA and that the pharmacy`s findings have been turned over to the state.

The Lechuza polo team from Venezuela began noticing their horses falling to the ground just prior to the start of Sunday`s U.S. Open match, mortifying the throngs of spectators in the audience expecting a race to commence at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in the village of Wellington.

Lechuza filed a similar report to The Associated Press citing that the compound prescribed by a Florida veterinarian under investigation is affined to a French-manufactured supplement titled Biodyl.

Biodyl is a supplement made by the Duluth, Ga.-based veterinary pharmaceutical company Merial Ltd. The medication contains five vitamins and minerals necessary for the physical activity in animals, including adenosine triphosphate, selenium, a form of the vitamin B-12 and several other minerals. In race horses, the supplement is used for various reasons, such as alleviation from exhaustion, cell replenishment, and even transport sickness. Though it`s prescribed extensively overseas, Biodyl has not been FDA-approved for use in the United States.

Franck`s Pharmacy, like other compound pharmacies, would normally add flavor to make the supplement more enticing for the animals to ingest, break down the products into powder or liquid form, and may extract an ingredient that may be harmful for the prescribed animal to consume.

The pharmacy acknowledged that an unacceptable amount of the substance was given to the horses before Sunday`s tragedy.

"Only horses treated with the compound became sick and died within 3 hours of treatment," the polo team issued in their statement. "Other horses that were not treated remain healthy and normal."

The Lechuza polo team, with its ownership based in Venezuela, also clarified that they too were cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration, the Florida State Department of Agriculture, and the Palm Beach County Sheriff`s Office.

Necropsies were conducted on all 21 of the polo horses and found that the horses suffered from internal bleeding, some of which occurring in the lungs, but couldn`t conclude on their actual causes of death.

Spokeswoman for the FDA Siobhan DeLancey said compounding pharmacies aren`t allowed by law to tamper with certain medications and supplements under patent, and are liable for copyright infringement. Delancey also said that the pharmacies are not cleared to change a compound that is not legalized for use in the U.S. in most cases.

As the FDA`s guidelines suggest, the administration generally yields to a state`s authority "regarding the day-to-day regulation of compounding by veterinarians and pharmacists." But in light of the pharmacy`s misuse of the supplement, the FDA said that it would "seriously consider enforcement action" if the pharmacy is found guilty of a federal infraction in altering the medications.

The investigations into the matter have not yet confirmed whether or not Franck`s broke the law.