Since Julia Beasley, one of the lawyers in our firm, is in the horse business, recent events in Florida really got our attention. There, Florida’s top veterinarian has blamed the deaths of 21 elite polo horses on an overdose of a common mineral that helps muscles recover from fatigue. According to Florida’s State Veterinarian, Dr. Thomas J. Holt, toxicology tests on the dead horses showed significantly increased selenium levels. The horses from the Venezuelan-owned Lechuza Caracas team began collapsing on April 19th just as they were unloaded from trailers at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington. The horses were to be involved in a championship match at the club. Some died at the scene, others hours later. Dr. Holt says: “Signs exhibited by the horses and their rapid deaths were consistent with toxic doses of selenium.” The team was preparing to play in the sport’s U.S. Open and was seen as a top contender.
Franck’s Pharmacy in located in Ocala, Florida, the pharmacy that mixed a brew of vitamins and minerals for the team on order from its Florida veterinarian, has admitted that the strength of selenium was incorrect. It’s not clear whether the incorrect amount was specified in the order from the veterinarian or was the result of a pharmacy error. In either event, the deaths of those horses was not only a tremendous loss, but should never have happened.
It appears the polo team wanted a compound similar to a name-brand supplement known as Biodyl. While that supplement is used around the world, it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. But veterinarians often turn to compounding pharmacies like Franck’s for medications that can’t be found on shelves. However, the dispensaries generally can only recreate unapproved drugs in limited circumstances, such as for health reasons. The FDA and state authorities are investigating this tragic incident. Biodyl is a supplement made in France by the Duluth, Georgia-based animal pharmaceutical firm Merial Ltd. Thus far, it’s not clear how close Franck’s mixture came to the name-brand drug. According to the team their order was supposed to contain vitamin B, potassium, magnesium and selenium.
The injections provided by Franck’s were given to the horses just hours before their deaths. Selenium is a common mineral needed in small doses by humans and animals for growth and tissue stabilization. It can also help muscles recover from fatigue. An overdose of selenium can cause the veins in the body to dilate, with no blood coming back to the heart. These horses died painful deaths — sad and tragic endings for the animals – and it appears negligence of one or more companies or entities was the cause.
Source: Associated Press
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