Animal & Veterinary
VETERINARIAN SENTENCED IN ANIMAL DRUG SMUGGLING CASE
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter March/April 1999 Volume XIV, No II
Dr. Jerry M. Bonham, a veterinarian from Cordell, Oklahoma, was sentenced to eight months in Federal prison for conspiring to buy more than $64,000 in illegal animal drugs knowing they had been smuggled into the United States. Dr. Bonham owns the Bonham Cattle Company and the Cordell Animal Hospital in Cordell, Oklahoma.
Dr. Bonham pled guilty and was sentenced on Wednesday, December 16, 1998, by the Honorable Robin Cauthron in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City. He was also fined $15,000, ordered to pay a $50 special assessment, and will be placed on two years supervised release after his prison term ends. Dr. Bonham was ordered to voluntarily report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence by noon, January 19, 1999. In addition, the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners scheduled a hearing to review Dr. Bonham's veterinary license.
Dr. Bonham admitted that between at least 1988 and 1994 he purchased more than 1,000 bottles of Clenbuterol from a Canadian veterinarian and resold it to his veterinary customers so they could use it to illegally enhance the muscle mass of their lambs and cattle entered in various livestock shows. Dr. Bonham's actions posed a danger to the food supply because many of the animals entered in livestock shows are slaughtered for food.
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 tremors, 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.
Last May, 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.
Judge Cauthron said her sentence was designed to punish Dr. Bonham for threatening the food supply, abusing his veterinary license, and refusing to cooperate with the government in discovering the names of all those to whom he sold the drug. "I think what you have done is a very serious offense, both against the laws of the United States and against its people," Cauthron said. "I think that in order to provide the example to the public . . . it is necessary that you go to prison." She also said "I cannot forget what you have done to children, or young people who are out there legitimately trying to learn how to do things and how to do them right, and they have been taught a very wrong thing by your activities in this case."
Dr. Bonham's conviction follows an investigation by agents of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Customs Service, which began their joint probe after six prize winning animals at the 1994 Tulsa State Fair tested positive for Clenbuterol. The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation.