Farm Talk

July 14, 2009

Compounded drugs have been linked to incidents with horses


Every horse owner has the right to know the safety and efficacy of medications a veterinarian prescribes for their horse. But even the most experienced horse owners may not be aware of the health risks involved with using compounded drugs. Compounded drugs are unregulated drugs produced by altering or combining other drugs to serve a patient’s particular need.

Recently, compounded drugs have been linked to tragic incidents in the horse industry, including the sudden death of 21 polo ponies in April and the deaths of several horses in Louisiana in 2006. Because compounded drugs are not regulated, other incidents remain unreported.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners acknowledges that reputable pharmacies produce legitimate compounded drugs to improve the health of horses when an FDA-approved option doesn’t exist. However, when inappropriately compounded and used, these drugs may pose a serious threat to the health of your horse. Knowing the facts about legitimate and illegitimate compounded drugs will help you and your veterinarian decide on the best treatment option for your horse.

What is a compounded medication?

Compounding is a process to produce a medication by combining or altering ingredients for the special needs of an equine patient. Only a licensed veterinarian may write a prescription for the compounded medication. Because there is a scarcity of approved medications for use in horses, there is a legitimate need for compounding in equine veterinary medicine. Some examples of legitimate compounding would include crushing a tablet and creating a paste or gel to aid in the administration to the patient or mixing two anesthetics in the same syringe for use in your horse.

Weigh the risks of unregulated medication.

Compounded drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and can vary in potency, stability, purity and effectiveness. And because these products are unregulated by the government, compounded drugs have the potential to pose serious safety risks to horses.

Compounded drugs are not generic drugs.

Because compounded drugs are generally cheaper than FDA-approved medications, horse owners often confuse compounded drugs with generic drugs. Generic drugs are biologically equivalent to a brand-name drug. Unlike compounded drugs, generic drugs go through an FDA approval process and are manufactured in an FDA-approved facility.