Anne M. Eberhardt

Guilty Verdicts for Pharmacy, Vet Tied to Frog Juice

Kohll's Pharmacy, vet Hebert each found guilty on three federal charges.

A U.S. district court jury found a veterinarian and pharmacy guilty of multiple charges for their roles in introducing and delivering dermorphin, often referred to as "frog juice," for illegal use in horse racing from Nov. 2010-Dec. 2012 in Louisiana.

Veterinarian Kyle James Hebert, who was licensed by the state of Louisiana and the Louisiana State Racing Commission and operated out of Southern Equine Sports Medicine in Lake Charles, La.; and Omaha-based Kohll's Pharmacy & Healthcare, which operated as Essential Pharmacy Compounding, were each found guilty of multiple federal charges for their roles in the creation and distribution of dermorphin.

In 2012 there were about 30 positives in post-race samples for dermorphin, a powerful painkiller discovered in tests at Industrial Laboratories in Colorado; tests that also would later be used by the Louisiana State University equine drug-testing lab to find the substance. Dermorphin picks up its "frog juice" nickname because it is produced by certain South American frogs, but this case involved a synthetic version of the substance.

In the case filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lake Charles Division, the U.S. Attorney argued that Hebert, Kohll's and others broke the law when they introduced, delivered, sold, and dispensed a prescription animal drug in interstate commerce, namely dermorphin, which was adulterated and misbranded. They also were accused of defrauding and misleading the United States Food and Drug Administration, the Louisiana Racing Commission, and the Louisiana State Police.

The jury found Kohll's guilty of three counts: conspiracy, introduction of an adulterated or misbranded drug in interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, and introduction of a misbranded drug in interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead. Hebert was found guilty of conspiracy, receiving adulterated or misbranded drugs in interstate commerce and delivery with intent to defraud or mislead, and misbranding a drug while held for sale after shipment.

In its outline of the conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney said Kohll's received synthetic dermorphin from a chemical supply company in Torrence, Calif., and offered that product for sale as an animal drug. Kohll's relabeled the product to make it appear that it had been compounded by Kohll's for a specific horse owned by a specific person upon the prescription of Hebert.

As a further part of the outlined conspiracy, Hebert purchased approximately 815 milligrams of dermorphin at a cost of $25,140 from Kohll's from Nov. 2010-Dec. 2012. The substance was falsely identified as "d-peptide."

Also outlined in the conspiracy, Hebert and his employees acting at his discretion, provided dermorphin to trainers for at least four race horses in the Western District of Louisiana. Referring to the dermorphin as "1 shot," he advised trainers that it would make the horses focus and run faster. He also told trainers that the substances was "untraceable," meaning it would not show up in a post-race blood test.

In the U.S. Attorney's outline of the conspiracy, Hebert broke federal laws by distributing syringes of the substance that either had no label attached or only a hand-written "1" on the end of the plunger of the syringe. Trainers were instructed to inject the substance one hour before race time. The U.S. Attorney said Hebert and his employees back-dated invoices to conceal the distribution of the dermorphin syringes to trainers.

Louisiana trainers sanctioned in 2012 for use of dermorphin included six Quarter Horse trainers and three Thoroughbred trainers.