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Pharmacy confirms selenium overdose in polo horse deaths

April 29, 2009 |  9:13 pm

Veterinarian Felix Eduardo Crespo walks a horse at the Lechuza Caracas stables in Wellington, Fla Following yesterday's announcement from Florida's top veterinarian that an overdose of the mineral selenium probably brought about the deaths of 21 prized polo horses at the U.S. Open polo tournament, the pharmacy that mixed the medication is confirming the suspicion.

Franck's Pharmacy of Ocala, Fla., announced last week that an internal review conducted after the horses' deaths found that "the strength of an ingredient in the medication was incorrect."  It had attempted, at the request of the Lechuza Caracas polo team's veterinarian, to formulate a substitute for a medication called Biodyl.  The medication was apparently given to the horses shortly before they began to collapse.

"In light of [the] statement from Florida State Veterinarian Thomas J. Holt, we can confirm that the ingredient was selenium," Jennifer Beckett, the pharmacy's chief operations officer, said in a statement.

Biodyl, a supplement used to help horses bounce back from strenuous exercise, is illegal in the U.S.  It's legal and widely used in many other countries, including the Lechuza team's native Venezuela, where it was apparently given to the horses on a regular basis. 

It's unclear if the dosage mistake was due to a pharmacy error or if the incorrect amount was specified in a prescription from the team's veterinarian.  Also unclear is whether the pharmacy broke any law by attempting to replicate the formula for a medication unapproved for use in the U.S. 

"We continue to cooperate fully with the authorities as their investigations proceed," Beckett said.  "Because of the ongoing investigations, we cannot discuss further details about the matter at this time."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Veterinarian Felix Eduardo Crespo walks a horse at the Lechuza Caracas stables in Wellington, Fla. Credit: Steve Mitchell / Associated Press.

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