11/08/2017 1:20PM

Backstretch vet, pharmacy found guilty in painkiller case

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A federal jury in Louisiana has found a backstretch veterinarian and a compounding pharmacy guilty on several counts related to the sale and distribution of a powerful synthetic pain-killing drug to trainers in the state, according to the U.S. district attorney prosecuting the case.

Kyle Hebert, 42, of Lake Charles, La., was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and three counts related to receipt of an adulterated or misbranded drug with the “intent to defraud and mislead,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana. Kohll’s Pharmacy, a compounder based in Nebraska, was found guilty on three similar counts.

The case stemmed from an investigation five years ago into the use of a synthetic form of dermorphin, an opioid that is commonly called “frog juice” because it is based on a naturally occurring substance secreted by several species of frogs. Hebert was accused of obtaining the drug from Kohll’s and then supplying syringes to trainers with instructions on how to administer the substance from late in 2010 to the summer of 2012, when labs developed a method to detect dermorphin.

A trial into the charges began on Oct. 30 and ran until Nov. 7, according to the attorney’s office. The jury deliberated for 3 1/2 hours.

Hebert faces up to 14 years in prison on the four counts. Kohll’s Pharmacy “faces a substantial fine and other penalties,” according to the attorney’s office. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

“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,” said Alexander Van Hook, the prosecuting attorney. “We are pleased with this verdict.”

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Kohll’s Pharmacy obtained the drug from a California company and re-labeled it as “D-Peptide.” In its indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office had said that some trainers were not told that the syringes supplied by Hebert contained dermorphin, but rather instructions to administer it one hour prior to post to “make the horses focus and run faster.”

Eight trainers in Louisiana were suspended from three to eight years after horses under their care tested positive for the drug in 2012, when a wave of dermorphin positives were detected in Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses running in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. A number of those trainers had pegged Hebert for supplying the syringes, leading to his indictment.