By T. D. Thornton
A Louisiana veterinarian has been sentenced by a federal judge to 15 months in prison and fined $10,000 for his role in selling dermorphin, an unapproved opioid drug 40 times more powerful than morphine, for the purpose of improving the performance of racehorses at various Louisiana tracks between 2010 and 2012.
In addition, the Nebraska pharmacy that was found guilty of repackaging the synthetic version of dermorphin–which in its natural form is derived from secretions of South American tree frogs–was sentenced to five years of corporate probation and ordered to pay a $200,000 fine.
Both sentences were announced Feb. 23 via press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Louisiana.
Dr. Kyle James Hebert, DVM, 43, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, had been found guilty in November on one count of conspiracy; two counts of receipt of adulterated or misbranded drug with the intent to defraud and mislead, and one count of misbranding a drug while held for sale with the intent to defraud and mislead.
Kohll's Pharmacy & Healthcare Inc. of Omaha, Nebraska, (doing business as Essential Pharmacy Compounding) was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and two counts of introduction of adulterated or misbranded drug in interstate commerce with intent to defraud and mislead.
Evidence admitted at the nine-day trial showed the pharmacy repackaged a synthetic form of the drug that it obtained from a California chemical company, labeled it as “D-Peptide,” and sold it to Hebert and other veterinarians.
Hebert, according to the U.S. attorney's press release, then put the drug into syringes and gave the loaded syringes to trainers.
Evidence showed that dermorphin is a strong painkiller that masks horses' pain and any pre-existing injuries. Depending on dosage, it can also act as a stimulant when injected in horses. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for use in humans or animals.
The sentenced parties could not be reached for comment regarding the possibility of appeals.