Horse racing regulators are in the process of testing several products produced by Texas-based Weatherford Compounding Pharmacy, based on the officials’ belief that the company is among several compounders that are either manufacturing performance-enhancing or pain-killing products that are undetectable on drug tests or marketing their products as such.

In September regulators in New Mexico confiscated Weatherford products, as well as similar substances from other compounders, at a Ruidoso Downs Quarter Horse meet and sent them to the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), which represents 24 industry stakeholders on medication and testing issues. RMTC Executive Director Dionne Benson, DVM, said the RMTC is testing 19 such products taken at Ruidoso—more than half of which are from Weatherford—to determine the exact ingredients.

By working through groups such as The Jockey Club and Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Program to limit medications to a short list of specific therapeutic drugs while banning all other substances, the RMTC has tried to identify such compounded substances that could range from harmless amino acids and vitamins to serious painkillers and performance enhancers.

While some amino acids might be innocuous, Benson noted that by using the right mix of amino acids, it is possible for a compounder to formulate dermorphin, the powerful painkiller known as "frog juice."

This year the RMTC has found two compounded substances to be outside of racing's rules. In July it issued a notice that Purple Pain and TB-500 would be treated as the highest level of medication violations and result in the most severe sanctions as recommended by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. Purple Pain is marketed as "the most powerful pain shot on the market today," while the manufacturers of TB-500 boast the compounds muscle-building qualities.

Joe Landers, owner of Weatherford Compounding Pharmacy, says the company’s products will pass testing, including a product named Tourniquet, which he claims curtails exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

"I hope they do test them because unless somebody tampered with them, they're going to find nothing," Landers said. "There's not been a horse yet that's had a bad test on Race Ready. There's not been a horse yet that's had a bad test on Tourniquet. If there was, this would have surfaced a long time ago."

Landers then said rule-abiding horsemen need his products to be able to compete with crooked trainers using illegal drugs he said are arriving in the United States from Mexico that are "far, far, far ahead of the racing commissions."

There are legitimate uses for compounding pharmacies in U.S. racing—making therapeutic products no longer manufactured by drug manufacturers and creating products for horses with specific needs—but an explosion of compounded products in recent years that, at the least, are marketed as performance-enhancers or powerful painkillers and, at worst, provide such results while evading detection, have regulators and testing labs wary.

A Growing Problem

Weatherford isn't the only compounder under scrutiny. Regulators mentioned a compounding lab near Fonner Park, in Grand Island, Neb., as one of concern, as well as the Internet site California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) equine medical director Rick Arthur, DVM, said earlier this year the CHRB sanctioned Rapid Equine Solutions in Pennsylvania. Arthur said the Weatherford products have not yet been seen in his state, but he would not provide the benefit of the doubt to any trainer found possessing them.

Scott Stanley, PhD, a chemist and lab director at the University of California, Davis, Kenneth L. Maddy laboratory, said on a weekly basis—if not daily—his lab receives for testing from regulators inappropriate pharmaceuticals prepared by compounders.

Landers said the RMTC should focus its attention on veterinarians and their use of products, not the manufacturer of the substances.

"We have a license to sell medicine and that's what we do," Landers said. "They have a license to buy medicine, and they have a license to use it on the track. It's their decision how it's to be used; and the trainer. It has nothing to do with me; nothing."

Landers, who is not a pharmacist, says his company is only filling a need.

"Anything we make, it's at the request of veterinarians and how they want to put them together, and what they want to do," he continued. "The owners, the trainers, and the veterinarians are the ones that control what goes into their horse, not the pharmacy. We don't go in there and give them anything."

Regulators at Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred meets in the Southwest report Weatherford representatives might not be administering their substances to horses, but they actively market their products on the backstretch.

Ken Quirk, DVM, state veterinarian for the Texas Racing Commission, said compounders aiming to sell illegal products or operate in a gray legal area have become problematic. He has seen products like Purple Pain marketed as having the same amino acids as dermorphin while evading tests.

"They market to people suggesting that their product cannot be tested for and that it enhances performance," Quirk said. "There's a lot of that going on."

Quirk has attempted to enforce racing commission rules regarding the substances but he also has gone to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, and the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners for help. Quirk and others have requested federal intervention. But to this point, he said little has been done.

"It seems like they have so many things on their plate that I'm not sure it's a priority for them," Quirk said.

American Quarter Horse Association executive director of racing Trey Buck was at Ruidoso when the 19 compounded substances were confiscated in September. He has seen Weatherford salesmen getting their message out at Remington Park, in Oklahoma. He noted that at least one Weatherford product included instructions that would require breaking the rules of racing.

"When you put something on a label that says it should be administered four hours before a race, when the only thing you can give on race day is Lasix, right there they're promoting breaking rules," Buck said. "And if they don't know that, they should before they go selling these products."

For now, Quirk is continuing his efforts that include trying to shame veterinarians into not supporting these types of compounded, gray-area products.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium is testing several substances from the Weatherford Compounding Pharmacy.

Originally published on

About the Author

Frank Angst

Frank Angst is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine. An American Horse Publications three-time winner in best news story category, Angst has covered horse racing for more than a decade. Angst spent ten years at Thoroughbred Times, where he earned awards as that magazine’s senior writer and helped launch Thoroughbred Times TODAY. Besides covering horse racing, Angst enjoys handicapping. Angst has written about sports for more than 20 years, including several seasons covering a nationally ranked Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

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