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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Company, Owner Fined, Placed on Probation for Selling Misbranded Animal Drugs

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter January/February 2005 Volume XX, No I

A Federal court in Iowa in December 2004 fined Livestock Concepts, Inc., and its owner, Becky Rus, and placed the company and the owner on probation for selling prescription animal drugs without a veterinarian’s oversight, and in some cases with false or forged documents.

The company was caught because cattle treated with drugs the company sold tested positive for illegal drug residues. The positive findings triggered an investigation.

Rus was given a year’s probation and fined $25,000, ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigation, and as part of a plea agreement required to forfeit $225,000 to the U.S. government.

Her company was also sentenced to a year’s probation and ordered not to sell prescription drugs during that time. In addition, the company was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $400 in special assessments.

The investigation was carried out by FDA’s Kansas City District Office, Office of Criminal Investigations, and Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The investigation was started after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service detected illegal levels of drug residues in slaughtered cattle. Whenever USDA discovers illegal residues, it contacts FDA to conduct an investigation into the reasons for the residues.

In this case, the investigator reviewed the records of the livestock producer whose animals were found with illegal residues. During this review, the investigator also checked with the veterinarian used by the producer and found that the veterinarian-client-patient relationship was not correctly in place.

This investigation, which took place in 2002, found that Rus on behalf of Livestock Concepts continued to purchase and dispense prescription drugs without a veterinarian’s prescription. The investigation found that from March 1999 to April 2000 the company did not employ any veterinarian, but continue to buy and dispense prescription drugs. As a result, Rus was in violation of Federal law by selling misbranded drugs.

Livestock Concepts provided false and forged documents to drug suppliers in order to continue to buy prescription drugs. The documents said a veterinarian was working for Livestock Concepts, even though the company was not employing one. The forged documents allowed the company to continue to buy prescription drugs that it dispensed.

The company used another veterinarian who sold drugs through the company even though he never examined the animals to be treated, which under Federal law is considered selling misbranded drugs.

Investigators also found that Livestock Concepts shipped veterinary drugs to a customer in Virginia based on a prescription form prepared and signed by a registered pharmacist, not a veterinarian. In addition, the company shipped animal drugs to a customer based on a prescription from a doctor of osteopathy. In another case, a veterinarian signed a prescription a month after the drugs were shipped.

Not unique case

This case is not unique, according to Kansas City District Office investigators. Each time a case of illegal drug sales is uncovered, FDA takes action. Often that action is an injunction and seizure of the product. But, when evidence is strong, local investigators can refer the case to FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. The U.S. Attorney then can decide if the case should be brought to court.

FDA is not likely to take action against the veterinarians, doctors, or pharmacists who aided Livestock Concepts in illegal drug sales, but FDA will notify States of any suspected illegal activities. States often take action against individuals.

Livestock producers who knowingly buy and use veterinary drugs illegally can also face an injunction or prosecution following an FDA investigation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture can also place sanctions on the livestock producer. The best way for livestock producers to avoid problems is to work closely with their veterinarians when selecting and using animal drugs, the Kansas City FDA officials said.

While not required by law, drug suppliers could consider notifying FDA if they see drugs they supply being used under suspicious circumstances, the investigators said.

Improper use of veterinary drugs in animals that produce food will lead to residues, as in the Livestock Concepts case. Residues can be harmful to consumers who eat food products made from the treated animals. Improper use of antimicrobials can contribute to the problem of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. And improper drug use can harm the health of the animals being treated.