ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
New information now about the deaths of 21 Polo ponies in Wellington, Florida. Today, a pharmacy based in Tallahassee released a statement saying that it prepared the vitamin supplement given to the horses just before they fell ill. And it has determined that the strength of one of the ingredients was incorrect. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN: Suspicion fell on the vitamin supplement given to horses of the Lechuza Caracas team almost immediately. In an interview with an Argentinean newspaper, one of the team captains said he had no doubt it was the vitamins that caused the problems. There were five horses that weren't given the vitamin he said. And they are the only ones that are fine. It's a trauma that has upset horse lovers around the world. It happened on Sunday just before match play at the U.S. Open Polo Championship in Wellington, just west of Palm Beach. The Lechuza Caracas horses appeared sick as soon as they were unloaded from their trailers. Stumbling and disoriented, some collapsed.
By the next morning, 21 of the team's horses were dead. At first, the French vitamin supplement, Biodyl, was implicated by members of the team. It's a drug that contains vitamin B, potassium, magnesium and selenium and is often used in Europe and Latin-America to help horses recover after races and strenuous exercise. That drug is not approved for use in this country by the FDA. Today, Lechuza Caracas said the medication given to the horses was not Biodyl, but a substitute prepared by compounding pharmacy. The company, Franck's Pharmacy, released a statement saying after the horse's deaths, it conducted an internal investigation and determined that the strength of one of the ingredients in the medication was incorrect.
Stephanie Valberg, a veterinarian with the University of Minnesota's Equine Center says in the wrong concentrations, many minerals and electrolytes can be harmful.
Dr. STEPHANIE VALBERG (Veterinarian, University of Minnesota Equine Center): In an excessive quantity of an electrolyte like potassium or magnesium could cause a heart stop and excessive content of minerals can sometimes cause an anaphylactic reaction or shock like reaction in horses.
ALLEN: Lechuza Caracas says only ongoing state and local investigations can determine what caused the horses' deaths. Meanwhile in Wellington, a subdued crowd watched as the Polo tournament resumed today. A memorial service for the 21 horses was planned for this evening.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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