Wellington polo ponies injected with supplement

The Palm Beach Post reported today that the polo ponies that died in Wellington earlier in the week had all received an injection of the vitamin supplement Biodyl, a drug that is not approved in the U.S., and that team members believe a tainted dose caused their deaths.

Juan Martin Nero, captain of the Lechuza Caracas polo team, told the La Nacion newspaper of Buenos Aires that all of the horses had received Biodyl injections before the game.

“We don’t have any doubts about the origin of the problem,” Nero said. “There were five horses that weren’t given the vitamin and they are the only ones that are fine.”

Biodyl, a French-made supplement, is banned by the federal Food and Drug Administration and its sale or use in the United States is illegal, an FDA spokeswoman said.

If horses were injected with the supplement, “that would be illegal use of an unapproved drug,” FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said.

Bioldyl is a French-made supplement that contains Vitamin B-12, selenium, potassium asparate and magnesium asparate. Last year, a shipment imported into the United States was rejected by FDA officials because it was deemed “a new animal drug which is unsafe,” FDA records show.

La Nacion reported that its use is not prohibited in Argentina, where the Venezuelan-owned team’s veterinarian and players are from.

This revelation still raises many questions. For one, Biodyl is routinely used in Europe as a vitamin/mineral supplement. The drug is intended to help horses recover more quickly from muscle fatigue. Unless the dosages were wrong or the product were tainted, it would be unlikely to cause problems. However, selenium administered in large doses can be toxic.

The Merck Veterinary Manual states:

Clinical signs are different from those of chronic selenosis and are characterized by abnormal behavior, respiratory difficulty, gastrointestinal upset, and sudden death. Abnormal posture and depression, anorexia, unsteady gait, diarrhea, colic, increased pulse and respiration rates, frothy nasal discharge, moist rales, and cyanosis may be noted.

Death usually follows within a few hours of consumption or injection. The major lesions are lung edema and congestion, and necrosis of multiple organs, including lung, liver, and kidney.

If the cause was the supplement, was it tainted? Or was the drug compounded in the US incorrectly rather than ordered from France? The initial necropsy reports on 8 of the horses revealed “nothing significant.

So, I guess we’ll need to wait for more detailed toxicology reports and hope to find out a definitive answer.

7 thoughts on “Wellington polo ponies injected with supplement

  1. There is a big lesson here…. I hear people complain all the time about all the wonderful drugs and vitamins that we can obtain in Europe, but we can’t get here in the US because the “drug companies are too powerful and control the FDA”.

    So, what do we say now?

    How many horses have died in ones and two that we never heard about? This tragedy in Wellington was simply to big to pass under the radar.

    The team, owner, and vet deserve all the blame on this one- even if the ‘lab made a mistake’, they all colluded (IMHO) to administer an unapproved drug to these animals for their sporting entertainment.

    Oh, Biodyl is pretty popular in cockfighting circles… another fine use.

    (Of course, this assume Biodyl was the culprit- but I’m not a court hence I can jump to conclusions and pre-judge all I want…)

  2. Looks like Biodyl is not the one to blame. According to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8015487.stm, the pharmacists put the drug together incorrectly. Good catch! You basically called it!

    But, I wonder why the pharmacists agreed to whip up a drug cocktail illegal in the states. I mean, if the team brought the drug from South America that would be more acceptable (no tragedy since presumably they’d used it back home). Instead the team attempted to make up its own version via a U.S. pharmacy, which resulted in tragedy.

    Now, this also shows that Biodyl is not evil and that perhaps “why do the EU drug testers think Biodyl is safe and our FDA does not?” is a better question to ask rather than pronouncing the FDA as our benevolent protector.

  3. This is very very upsetting.

    so the horses would all have been fine if they just used the Merial Drug that is made in France.

    why does the FDA care about the use of this drug???

    I haven’t read the BH article yet. but I heard through a third party that selenium was thought to be the culprit. that’s what insiders were saying the morning after.

    If it is good enough for france and overseas then how come the FDA has to deem it illegal???

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