Consider the Source

When you're seeking horse health information, go to a reliable source.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Adequan

Imagine your horse has started limping, has been diagnosed with an ulcer or needs a vaccine. There are so many treatments out there, and they all look the same. How can you make the best decision for the health of your horse?

You aren’t alone in your confusion or your need for unbiased information. As a horse owner, you make decisions every day about how to treat your horse, hoping you make the right choice. There are a few keys to having confidence in these decisions.

AAEP Is a Champion for Knowledge

This proliferation of treatments is partly due to compounding pharmacies and veterinary medical devices. About eight years ago, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (an AQHA alliance partner) noticed not only an abundance of compounds, but also a need to teach veterinarians how they should and should not be used.

“Some of these pharmacies developed sales forces to go out and ‘educate’ the veterinary population about their products,” says Dr. Jim Morehead, owner of Equine Medical Associates PSC in Lexington, Kentucky. “They tried to tell veterinarians that their compounded products were the same thing as Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs. They’re trying to say it’s apples to apples.

The fact is, we don't know that it's apples to apples. We have no information on efficacy, concentration, shelf life, how the product was made, sterility, etc.”

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In July 2004, AAEP put together a Drug Compounding Task Force, with Dr. Morehead as the chairman. The task force developed white papers, articles and other educational materials to educate veterinarians and ensure that they had information that was not only legal and in accordance with the FDA but also in the best interest of the horses.

“We saw there was more to do after the first task force,” says Dr. Morehead, resident veterinarian at Three Chimney Farms. “So we created another task force, and we ramped up the education to veterinarians. We’ve spent four years educating equine veterinarians. Five years ago, if your veterinarian didn't understand the difference between compounded medications and FDA-approved drugs or generic medications, that was a believable story. Now, you would have to be living in a hole not to have seen this. It has been in all of the AAEP publications.”

With all this education, why are there still so many compounds and veterinary medical devices being used instead of FDA-approved drugs? Ask yourself if you have ever asked your veterinarian for a cheaper alternative.

“If all you’re looking at is

price, then compounded products are usually cheaper than FDA-approved drugs,” Dr. Morehead says. “Compounding pharmacies can import bulk grade pharmaceutical powders and compound the medications. You have to realize, they haven't gone through the FDA approval process. There has been no testing, no validation or monitoring by the FDA. If your sole motivation, or if one of your high motivations is price, routinely compounded medications are cheaper.”

Start With FDA Approval

FDA approval is the best standard by which you can measure the worth of treatment options. There may be cheaper options, but if they aren’t FDA-approved, then you never know what you will get. Compounds that are being sold as low cost options to FDA-approved products are not only illegal, but they are also potentially dangerous.

“Veterinarians are charged to do what is in the best interest of their patient,” Dr. Morehead continues. “If truly we are doing what is best for that horse, and if there is an FDA-approved product that can treat the disease or condition, then it's our duty to use that product, backed by research, backed by clinical trials, backed by purity studies, etc.”

To gain FDA approval, a drug must pass clinical trials, prove it helps treat the disease it’s supposed to treat and prove the ingredients are safe and come from approved sources. FDA-approved drugs must also be manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practices and must maintain these high standards to remain FDA-approved.

Compounded drugs are important for veterinarians because there are some diseases and problems that don’t have FDA-approved treatments currently.

The problem occurs when a compounded drug or veterinary medical device is created to replace an FDA-approved drug.

Where Can You Find Good Information?

Start by learning more about which products are FDA-approved and the facts behind compounds and medical devices. There is a lot of information available to the general public at and, the American Veterinary Medical Association website. Horse owners can find scientifically founded information that was developed with patient care in mind. The experts that provide this content are unbiased and are not paid by compounding pharmacies or other drug manufacturers.

“The FDA has a website (, but it's difficult to navigate,” Dr. Morehead says. “It's not in plain English, so it's not usually one I send people to, but, and are the three websites I encourage people to go to for information. I would encourage horse owners to talk with their veterinarians. They have access to lots of information on this subject. By asking pointed questions of your veterinarian, you’ll strike up a conversation for the right treatments.”

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With all the options on the market, some backed by research and some backed by sales forces, you don’t have to be fooled by products that imitate the proven treatments. Take time to learn from organizations like AAEP and AVMA, which provide research-based standards for judging treatments.

“Now there is a push to educate the horse-owning public,” Dr. Morehead says. “This is an effective approach in trying to get everybody up to speed on this topic. So not only can veterinarians make the call on the use of these products, but they can also involve the horse owner. If these campaigns result in a discussion between the veterinarians and the horse owners, if it raises the educational bar, it is truly a great movement. It will result in the best care for the horse.”

Ask your veterinarian if there are FDA-approved options for treating your horse. If the FDA hasn’t approved it, you can’t be sure of what’s in the bottle.