Horse Owners: Use Caution with Unapproved Drugs

Studies show a wide range in pharmaceutical equivalence of compounded drugs compared to brand name drugs.
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A recent outbreak of human meningitis, caused by the injection of contaminated compounded steroid products prepared by the New England Compounding Center, has put compounding pharmacies into the daily headlines. With a death toll reaching 39 and a reported 656 cases nationwide as of late December, the outbreak has likely raised questions in consumers’ minds about drug safety.

But it isn’t just human drugs consumers should be concerned about. Compounding pharmacies prepare drugs for horses, as well. In 2009, a vitamin and mineral supplement prepared by Franck’s Compounding Lab in Ocala, Fla., included an excessive amount of one ingredient (selenium) that resulted in the death of 21 polo ponies. In other cases of questionable drug safety, illegal products that claim to be "the same as" name brand drugs are marketed to consumers, sometimes with devastating results. In 2006, a reported six horses died as a result of using an illegal clenbuterol product.

In other instances of using non-U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs, while the products might not be particularly harmful, they might not contain the labeled amount of active ingredient or do what they claim to do.

Studies presented at the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention in prior years have shown a wide range in the pharmaceutical equivalence of compounded drugs when compared to brand name drugs. In 2003, Scott Stanley, PhD, director of the University of California, Davis, Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory, presented findings from a study evaluating compounded versions of the FDA-approved drugs ketoprofen, amikacin, and boldenone. In the case of ketoprofen, one compounded preparation contained just one-half of the expected concentration. With amikacin, some compounded preparations had a lower drug concentration, between 59% and 76% of what was stated on the label. Other compounded versions of the drug had 112% and 140% of the stated concentration

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