Sore Back? Skip The Bute

Horse owners have been known to take medications prescribed to the animals in their care, despite the possible dangers. While some anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and dewormers may be the same in both human and equine medicine, but their formulations can be vastly different; because of this, human ingestion of equine drugs isn’t recommended.

An American woman experiencing severe back pain attempted to take some phenylbutazone (Bute) that had been prescribed for one of the horses in her care. She took three doses of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), each suitable for a 400-pound horse, reports the journal Clinics and Practice.

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Three days later, the woman went to the hospital complaining of nausea, vomiting and weakness, which she said she had been experiencing for two weeks. She often had back pain that was controlled by use of over-the-counter naproxen, but reported that this episode was exceptionally painful, which is why she ingested the Bute.

She presented to the hospital with nearly low blood pressure, a high heart rate, and normal O2 levels, as well as dry mucous membranes. Blood work showed a low white blood count, low platelet levels, elevated liver enzymes, and acute kidney injury. Her urine blood screen showed use of amphetamines and marijuana.

Poison control and toxicology were engaged once it was discovered she had ingested the Bute, but no antidote was recommended. She was given an N-acetyl cysteine and sodium bicarbonate drip because of the suspected acute liver damage caused by the phenylbutazone.

After three days of in-hospital treatment, the woman was feeling better and checked herself out.

Though phenylbutazone was used in human medicine for the treatment of multiple forms of arthritis, it was removed from the human medicinal arsenal in 1970 because of an increased risk of agranulocytosis, a life-threatening blood disorder.

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