Pharmacokinetics and selected pharmacodynamics of cobalt following a single intravenous administration to horses

Heather K Knych, Rick Arthur, M. M. Mitchell, I. Holser, Robert H Poppenga, L. L. Smith, M. N. Helm, R. A. Sams, C. L. Gaskill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Cobalt has been used by human athletes due to its purported performance-enhancing effects. It has been suggested that cobalt administration results in enhanced erythropoiesis, secondary to increased circulating erythropoietin (EPO) concentrations leading to improvements in athletic performance. Anecdotal reports of illicit administration of cobalt to horses for its suspected performance enhancing effects have led us to investigate the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamic effects of this compound when administered in horses, so as to better regulate its use. In the current study, 18 horses were administered a single intravenous dose of cobalt chloride or cobalt gluconate and serum and urine samples collected for up to 10days post administration. Cobalt concentrations were measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and pharmacokinetic parameters determined. Additional blood samples were collected for measurement of equine EPO concentrations as well as to assess any effects on red blood cell parameters. Horses were observed for adverse effects and heart rate monitored for the first 4h post administration. Cobalt was characterized by a large volume of distribution (0.939L/kg) and a prolonged gamma half-life (156.4h). Cobalt serum concentrations were still above baseline values at 10days post administration. A single administration of cobalt had no effect on EPO concentrations, red blood cell parameters or heart rate in any of the horses studied and no adverse effects were noted. Based on the prolonged gamma half-life and prolonged residence time, regulators should be able to detect administration of a single dose of cobalt to horses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-625
Number of pages7
JournalDrug Testing and Analysis
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Cobalt
  • Detection
  • Horses
  • Pharmacokinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Spectroscopy


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