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Petco Unit Agrees to Stop Making Illegal Painkiller

Times Staff Writer

Revere Manufacturing, a division of San Diego-based Petco Animal Supplies, has agreed to stop manufacturing an illegal pain reliever that contains DMSO, a controversial product that proponents believe can reduce arthritic pain, city of San Diego and state officials said Thursday.

The San Diego city attorney’s consumer fraud unit also has filed misdemeanor criminal charges against two other San Diego-based companies in connection with the drug manufacturing investigation, which was initiated by the state Department of Health Services.

Charges were filed against Diversified Medical, which allegedly developed the DMSO-based drug, and Prima International, which evidently hoped to distribute the product, according to Bill Newsome, head deputy of the San Diego city attorney’s consumer fraud unit. Spokesmen for the two companies were not available for comment Thursday.

San Diego-based Revere, which recently was acquired by Petco, agreed to pay a $44,000 fine as part of a consent decree signed late last month in San Diego Superior Court. Revere and Petco, which operates about 130 retail pet stores in the West and Texas, acknowledged no guilt in signing the consent decree.

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‘Joint Pain Relief’

Revere agreed to stop manufacturing Joint Pain Relief, a product that contains DMSO. Although the controversial drug has been approved for use in certain veterinary and human health-care products, California and federal regulators have not cleared it for use in arthritis pain medications.

The state’s investigation uncovered no evidence that Revere had sold the DMSO-based drug, said Newsome. However, a laboratory test determined that the product being manufactured by Revere “contained extremely high levels of a compound (DMSO) that is not permitted to be sold in the U.S.” for use in painkiller drugs, Newsome said.

DMSO gained national attention several years ago when CBS’ “60 Minutes” program reported on the increased use of the industrial solvent by arthritis pain sufferers.

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Regulators continue to doubt the efficacy and safety of DMSO, but various manufacturers have continued to make DMSO-based products, according to Chris Wogee, supervising inspector of the state food and drug branch. “We see it on occasion (in California),” Wogee said. “But not as much as before.”

According to the city attorney’s civil complaint against Revere, the pet-food manufacturer also illegally manufactured adulterated pet drugs without a license. And, the complaint alleged that Revere’s pet food manufacturing plant was unsanitary.

Petco attorney Peter Benzian acknowledged that Petco’s Revere division signed the consent decree but maintained that the company was innocent of wrongdoing.

Applicable Standards

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“Rather than get involved in a long, protracted civil suit, (Revere) simply agreed to this settlement,” Benzian said. In the settlement, Revere also agreed to correct unsanitary conditions in its pet food manufacturing operation in San Diego. Benzian maintained that Revere’s manufacturing plant met applicable sanitary standards. “We believe that if the matter were litigated we would have prevailed,” Benzian said.

State inspectors learned of the illegal drug manufacturing through a complaint, Wogee said. “We followed up on the complaint because we were aware that Revere was not licensed to manufacture drugs,” Wogee said.

Although it is illegal in California to label DMSO-based products as drugs, manufacturers can sell them for use in industrial settings. “They just can’t make medical claims,” Wogee said.


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