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Experts at the annual meeting of the American Equestrian Practitioners Association talk about drug regulation in the horse racing industry.
Published by Stacy Pigott | April 23, 2021 | AAEP Convention, 2020 AAEP Convention, Articles, Competition News and Issues, Horse Care, Medicine, Sports Medicine, Thoroughbred Horse Racing, Welfare and Industry
In the racing industry, as manufacturers develop new drugs and scientists hone their techniques for analyzing and identifying therapeutic drugs, environmental pollutants, and banned drugs, drug use has undergone major changes over the years. Despite constant changes, the medication rules still have the following three main purposes: to ensure a fair and level playing field; to protect the safety and welfare of horses; and to protect the betting public.
Experts discussed this topic during the 2020 American Horse Industry Practitioners Association Conference, which was held in a virtual way.
"The purpose of equine drug testing is to establish and provide industry integrity for this sport," said Dr. Scott Stanley, a professor at the University of Kentucky Gluck Horse Research Center, who has more than 30 years of regulatory drug testing experience. "For anyone who wants to bet or compete in these specific events, the concept of integrity is essential."
The drug regulations aim to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing drugs, while establishing appropriate guidelines for the use of legal therapeutic drugs. Research has led to different drug dosing thresholds and discontinuation guidelines, as well as the most recent discontinuation or restriction of dosing time.
"The reason (the horse's anti-doping program) is so complicated is that many of the drugs are very difficult to detect, and the analytical tools, software and laboratory capabilities have been greatly improved," Stanley said.
Heather Knych, DVM, PhD, diploma. ACVCP is a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the KL Maddy Equine Laboratory of Analytical Pharmacology at the University of California, Davis. He said that the most commonly used drugs in the racing industry today are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and furosemide. Another class of less commonly used drugs is bisphosphonates.
"(Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are of course the main drugs for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and inflammation in horses," Knych said, and identified bute, flunixin and meglumine (Banamine) and ketoprofen ( Ketofen) are the three most common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used in horse racing.
Racing regulators have traditionally allowed the use of NSAIDs within 24 hours of race time, but in recent years some people have suggested increasing the time range to no earlier than 48 hours. Some horse racing jurisdictions also restrict the "stacking" of NSAIDs. This approach is to administer two NSAIDs close to each other within 48 hours and 24 hours before the race.
Corticosteroids are usually given as joint injections. Equine veterinarians use several types, and their anti-inflammatory effect lasts for different durations. Recent studies have found that blood concentration does not necessarily represent the concentration of corticosteroids in the joints, especially when veterinarians use long-acting preparations. In addition, the route of administration affects the detection time in the blood. Knych said that some corticosteroids, such as triamcinolone acetonide, can be detected in the blood for a longer time after intramuscular injection than intra-articular use.
Many racing jurisdictions and industry organizations now recommend a downtime of 14 days or more for the use of corticosteroids in the joints and prohibit the accumulation of corticosteroids.
In North America, furosemide (Lasix) is usually allowed four hours before the visit as a preventive treatment for exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage or EIPH. Knych said that the widespread use of furosemide as a match day drug continues to raise concerns about its performance-enhancing effect and its potential as a masking agent.
Recent studies have focused on assessing the efficacy of furosemide within 24 hours before the game, while also seeking to find alternative management strategies for EIPH.
Bisphosphonates such as tiludronate disodium (Tildren) and clodronate disodium (Osphos) are labeled for the control of clinical symptoms associated with scaphoid syndrome; however, they are also used for other indications, according to It is reported to have analgesic (pain relief) effects, Knych said.
"In horse racing, people have always been worried about giving bisphosphonates to young horses and to horses during race training," she said. "The effect of bisphosphonates on the bones of young, growing horses is unknown. Another question is how bisphosphonates affect the natural healing process of young horses under training, especially in high-impact disciplines such as horse racing. "
Due to the lack of research on the use of bisphosphonates in horses under 4 years of age, some horse racing jurisdictions have banned horses that have received bisphosphonates in the past six months from entering the racecourse.
Stacy Pigott is a freelance writer living in Tucson, Arizona. For 25 years, Stacy has been the editor of various horse publications in the Quarter Horse racing and Western show horse industry. She currently works at the University of Arizona and is a public information officer responsible for health science news and research. She hopes to participate in triathlon and jumping competitions with her OTTB Nicky.
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