Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced today that a federal jury found a Lake Charles veterinarian and a Nebraska pharmacy guilty of conspiring to sell an unapproved opioid drug 40 times more powerful than morphine for the purpose of improving the performance of race horses.
Kyle James Hebert, 42, of Lake Charles, La., and Kohll's Pharmacy & Healthcare Inc. of Omaha, Neb., were found guilty on Monday of one count of conspiracy. Hebert was also found guilty of 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 was also found guilty of two counts of introduction of adulterated or misbranded drug in interstate commerce with intent to defraud and mislead. United States District Judge Donald E. Walter presided over the trial. The defendants' trial started October 30 and ended on Monday, November 7, 2017 with the jury returning the guilty verdict after deliberating for three and a half hours.
Evidence admitted at trial revealed that from November 11, 2010, to December 2012, Hebert, Kohll's Pharmacy & Healthcare Inc. of Omaha, Neb., which operated as Essential Pharmacy Compounding, and others conspired to distribute a synthetic form of the drug Dermorphin, which was then given to racehorses to improve their racing performance. Essential Pharmacy Compounding 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 then put the drug into syringes and gave the loaded syringes to the racetrack trainers tasked with the horses' care. Evidence at trial revealed 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.
“This office is committed to vigorous prosecution of unlawful practices by pharmacies and/or distributors of harmful drugs that put humans or animals at risk,” Van Hook stated. “We are pleased with this verdict.”
“FDA is responsible for protecting not only human consumers, but also animals, including race horses, from unscrupulous distributors of illegal drugs,” said Justin D. Green, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations' Miami Field Office. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who attempt to evade the law.”
Hebert faces five years in prison for the conspiracy count and three years in prison for each of the other counts. Kohll's Pharmacy faces a substantial fine and other penalties based on its felony conviction. The court will set a sentencing date in the future.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and Louisiana State Police conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph T. Mickel and David C. Joseph are prosecuting the case.
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