Veterinarian Indicted In Clenbuterol Smuggling Case

On May 22, 1998, a Federal grand jury indicted Dr. Jerry M. Bonham, a veterinarian from Cordell, Oklahoma, on charges of conspiring to buy illegal clenbuterol that had been smuggled into the U.S. from Canada. Dr. Bonham owns the Bonham Cattle Company and the Cordell Animal Hospital in Cordell, Oklahoma. The indictment charges that between 1988 and 1994, Dr. Bonham purchased more than $68,000 worth of smuggled clenbuterol, knowing that the drug was not approved for use in the U.S.

The indictment charges Dr. Bonham with conspiring with Dr. John Phillip Murray, a veterinarian in Oxbow, Saskatchewan, Canada, and others, to violate Federal laws prohibiting the sale of smuggled merchandise and introducing adulterated drugs into interstate commerce. Dr. Murray was convicted by the U.S. in 1995 for his role in smuggling clenbuterol into the United States. In addition, the Professional Conduct Committee of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association (SVMA) found Dr. Murray guilty of professional misconduct, and in 1997 suspended his veterinary license for 2 years, followed by 3 years of practice under the supervision of a veterinarian licensed and in good standing with SVMA. In addition, SVMA fined him $30,000 plus court costs in excess of $50,000.

Clenbuterol, which belongs to the family of compounds called Beta-agonists, has never been approved for use in food animals in the U.S. In Europe, human illness was associated with consumption of meat containing clenbuterol residue. Symptoms from ingesting clenbuterol-contaminated meat can include increased heart rate, muscular remors, headache, dizziness, nausea, fever, and chills. Concerns over the abuse of clenbuterol in food animals in the U.S. have led to strict enforcement against illegal sales and use.

Recently, FDA approved Ventipulmin® Syrup, which contains a small amount of clenbuterol, as a restricted use prescription-only drug for treating horses affected with airway obstruction. When FDA approved Ventipulmin®, several controls were put in place to ensure that this drug would not be misused in food-producing animals.

The charges against Dr. Bonham are the result of an investigation by agents of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Customs Service. The case is being prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma and the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation.

An indictment is merely an allegation that a person has committed an offense. All persons charged are presumed innocent unless and until found guilty by a judge or jury.

If convicted, Dr. Bonham faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the charge.

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