21 polo ponies died all at once under mysterious circumstances in Florida.
Before the last one had even slipped into rigor, I was asked whether I thought it was the work of animal rights lunatics?
I doubted it.
"My bet is that it will be an accidental supplements toxin due to mislabeling by someone who does not speak English too well," I replied.
It looks like I might be right.
This was an Argentine polo team trying to get their hands on a vitamin supplement (Biodyl) made by a U.S.-based veterinary supply company called Merial (they make Heartgard).
Biodyl is not approved for use or sale in the U.S. for animals or humans.
Rather than live with the ban on this not-FDA approved substance, the Argentine polo team apparently got their regular veterinarian, Felix Crespo, to partner with U.S.-licensed veterinarian to do a "work around" on the law by going to a compounding pharmacist.
What's a compounding pharmacist?
Compounding pharmacies are generally small-time operations that cock up mixtures of cold medicines and lotions for doctors. It is not uncommon for compounding pharmacists to pay kickbacks for referrals.
I am not alleging any kickback in this case -- I am simply describing the slippery nature of compounding pharmacies where the "slither quotient" is often pretty high. If a doctor sent me to a compounding pharamacist, I would probably change doctors.
So what's the story with these poisoned horses?
Time will tell, but I will be that it will turn out to be a case of Selenium poisoning.
Selenium is needed in micro amounts by the body, but it is pretty toxic at higher doses.
The problem in Florida was that there were too many cooks in the kitchen, and with each turn of the spoon the chance for the supplments recipe to get screwed up rose exponentially.
Time will tell, but I will bet that the final story is that the Spanish-speaking veterinarian gave a formula to the U.S. vet, who then gave it to the compounding pharmacist. Somewhere along the way -- perhaps due to translation problems -- I suspect a microgram measurement for Selenium was translated as a milligram measurement for Selenium. The result was that 21 horses got 1,000 times more Selenium injected into them than they should have.
Death followed pretty quickly.
This is, of course, entirely speculative. For all I know, the compounding pharmacy hired people straight from a psych ward who then filled every order that day with undiluted rat poison.
But I doubt it.
A weights and measurement mistake in a supplement due to language problem fits the probability curve much better.
A toxins panel will soon reveal what's up. Stay tuned.