06/18/2014 4:09PM

Jockey Club seeks support for Lasix study


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Jockey Club has begun seeking support for a multi-million-dollar study that would assess the efficacy of the diuretic furosemide in treating bleeding in horses’ lungs when it is administered 24 hours out from a race compared with the current regulatory limit of four hours, opening up a new debate in a deeply controversial topic.

Jockey Club executive director Matt Iuliano introduced the idea for the study at a meeting of the Kentucky Equine Drug Council on Tuesday afternoon outside Lexington, where the proposal received a mix of lukewarm support and outright hostility from some council members, including an equine veterinarian and the president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The Jockey Club has long been involved in efforts to roll back the legal raceday use of furosemide, a diuretic most commonly marketed under the brand name Lasix, citing North America’s isolation among most of the world’s major racing jurisdictions in allowing for the raceday use of the drug. As a result, any proposal from the organization is usually met with a jaundiced eye by supporters of the drug’s raceday use.

“I don’t want to support this because of who it’s coming from,” Dr. Andy Roberts, a practicing Standardbred veterinarian who owns horses, said bluntly at the meeting. 

While many of the details of the proposal have yet to be worked out, the Jockey Club hopes that it will be the largest study of the efficacy of furosemide since a 2009 study in South Africa examining bleeding and furosemide use in 167 racehorses. The Jockey Club was one of the North American organizations that provided funding for the study, which concluded, contrary to the Jockey Club’s hopes, that furosemide, when administered four hours prior to races, was effective in both decreasing the severity and incidence of bleeding. The study is considered the most scientifically rigorous evaluation of furosemide ever conducted.

According to Iuliano, the Jockey Club study would involve upwards of 100 horses, many of whom have bled in the past. The horses would be divided into two groups, with one group receiving furosemide four hours prior to a simulated race and the other group receiving the drug 24 hours before the race. The groups would then be swapped for at least a second simulated race, with tracheal examinations following each performance to score the incidence and severity of bleeding.

The administration time of 24 hours dovetails neatly with the Jockey Club’s goal of prohibiting the raceday administration of the drug, leading to suspicions from detractors that the study is being proposed by the organization only to press its case for restricting the drug. Those suspicions were heightened when Dr. Gary Lavin, a council member and Jockey Club member, said: “All we’re trying to do is support the notion that [furosemide] is not as important as we think it is.”

The study, which may require the Jockey Club to claim more than 100 horses off the track and pay for the horses’ upkeep and training for more than a month, would be enormously expensive, and Iuliano told the council that the Jockey Club would need to find “widespread industry support” to fund it. While the proposal is still in its formative stages, Iuliano asked the council whether or not it would support a further exploration of the study for the purposes of a more formal consideration down the road, including devoting council funds to the study.

The council, which receives its funding from parimutuel receipts and has funded studies in the past to determine withdrawal times for drugs that have benefited the entire racing industry, eventually conducted a vote on whether the Jockey Club should return to the council with a more detailed proposal. The motion passed by a voice vote of 7-2, with Roberts and Rick Hiles, the longtime president of the KHBPA, voting no.

But despite that show of support, there also seemed to be some ambivalence from at least one of the yes votes, that of Michael L. Kilgore, a professor of pharmacology and nutritional studies at the University of Kentucky who has authored numerous scientific papers. Expressing some exasperation with the prolonged debate surrounding tangential issues to the study, Kilgore said that to conduct a proper scientific study of the issue, the proposal would first need to ask “why would you want to give [furosemide] to a horse 24 hours out, and what reason do you believe would justify that?”

“We’re doing this all backwards,” Kilgore said. 



Tracy Willis More than 1 year ago
That has got to be one of the stupidest thing I have ever heard of,years ago Marion Scott Dupont Equine hospital did a lasix study I am talking at least 10 years ago,at the time I had a 4yr old thirty eight paces gelding that had bleed while racing their study showed lasix peaks get that peaks at 2 hrs out at 4hrs there is nothing left,so why would you even think of giving it 24hrs out
Vickie Hoffmann More than 1 year ago
I just started following racing again because of California Chrome. I am ready to stop again after finding out all the drugs that these horses get. Nothing has changed really since the 1990's when Istopped watching after the breakdowns at the Breeders cup. ( Maybe I'll watch racing from Europe and Hong Kong on the "net).
Ted Maher More than 1 year ago
Of course the S. African study found Lasix decreased bleeding. And sdnake venom blocks pain. And essentially every other drug masks a condition. That doesn't make it right to use it. And it's always the vets and HBPA that is against it. The vets care about their charges for administration, and the HBPA supports the trainers, most of who could not figure out how to train a horse without drugs. I agree with the comment that racing without Lasix isn't a significant problem in the rest of the world. It doesn't affect the breed because they ship all their bleeders here and affect our stock. I also love the quote in the article fro the vet who wouldn't support the study because of who wanted it conducted. Now there's a great argument.
Lmaris More than 1 year ago
Funny how the horses in the rest of the world manage to have full racing careers without Lasix or other race day meds. They run longer and carry more weight. Wasting money on yet another study trying to prove Lasix is necessary when the world has proved it is not, will just put another nail in racing's coffin.
Jarrod Goldberg More than 1 year ago
Lasix is the number one contributing factor to the weakening of The Breed. 95% of horses run on it and I don't believe that many need it. It is a diuretic and that is one if the big reasons it is used. I'm not a vet but common sense tells me an athlete performing under duress when dehydrated has more risk of injury as well. Look how many starts horses made vs after lasix usage began. We raced horses for 300 years but in the last 40 they all need lasix? That's BS
Lmaris More than 1 year ago
Only In North America do the "need" lasix. It is a proven performance enhancer, banned in other equestrian sport. Track vets would be loathe to lose this cash cow, as would trainers who have so little confidence in their horses they don't believe they could win without this cheat.
Wonderagain More than 1 year ago
So, you deleted my comment. What, DRF has become so corporate you have no sense of humor? This proposed Lasix study is a laughable waste of time and money. What else is new from leaders of this industry in continuous serious decline to the deep regret of lifelong participants/fans/players.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
What a complete waste of money and time......period.
Wonderagain More than 1 year ago
I agree 100%.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
Lasix is to blame for zero Triple Crown winners. It takes a horse much longer to bounce back after they race on Lasix. Lasix is main reason they loose so much weight.
Anne Russek More than 1 year ago
There is nothing wrong with wanting to conduct an updated study. I don't completely understand why the jockey club would need to claim and train the horses. I would think that 100 horse owners would volunteer their horses for the study. In the event a volunteer horse was claimed by another owner, there could be a disclaimer in the overnight that the horse would need to stay in the program the full thirty days......
Erin Doty-McQuaid More than 1 year ago
Although expensive, claiming the horses would allow the JC to have complete control over the horses (in theory at least). This would make it a scientific study and not an arbitrary one--which could be easily refuted if only volunteer horses were used. Horses volunteered by other owners would not have the same control level (i.e. monitoring) as those owned outright by the JC. When conducting a study, all variables must be accounted for--and an attempt at that would only be possible if the JC are the horses' owners.
Eric Smith More than 1 year ago
Not to mention it could be affect the outcome of races and wagers. There would have to be a way to notate in the programs which horses were receiving lasix at 24 hours out, there would be an increase in horses "bleeding through" the lasix (presumably). It's a pointless study. Common sense says the effect of the drug will be diminished by increasing the admin time 6-fold. There is anecdotal evidence that a big difference exists between 3 hour and 4 hour administration time, especially at higher altitudes. (QH in New Mexico have a 3 hour time because of the altitude at Ruidoso -- 6900 ft.) The question they supposedly want to answer is whether it is a "necessary" race day drug appears to have already been answered in other parts of the world..
Beenthere Donethat More than 1 year ago
1. What is going to cost millions of dollars? 2. Why do people, in the name of precaution, want to send 98% of the horses out to run their hearts out in the heat with an abnormally high level of dehydration? 3. How can a horse last through a campaign while being "killed with kindness"? Try it yourself. I did. My test did not cost millions of dollars. Drink 64 oz of water a day for a week and then run around the block on a hot day and note how you feel when done. Return your intake to normal the next week, and then fast as you would to take a blood test starting the night before and make sure to drink nothing whatsoever to simulate the effect of lasix, and then run. Make sure it is nice and hot outside. The difference you will feel in effort levels is quite an eye opener. You will witness first hand what these horses are going through in the name of precaution. Now I know why it is taking them so long to recover after races.
Cheryl Kleist More than 1 year ago
Beenthere Donethat you made an excellent point that I have also expressed, but I didn't demo it myself. You were very brave to do that. Lasix is a dangerous drug. It is given to humans only when a medical need exists. I have witnessed first had the effects after my father had congestive heart failure. This involves a build up of fluid in the lungs so the human seems to be drowning. It is due to the inability of the heart to function in balance with the kidneys; i.e. the heart isn't pumping the blood sufficiently fast enough for the kidneys to eliminate body waste fluid normally--thus the build up. Lasix is a drug of choice, but the amount has to be carefully balanced so not too much--dehydration or too little congestive heart failure. Over time it stops working which is what happened to my Dad. The result is death. Giving healthy horses Lasix is a real problem. It has to be stressing this balance each and every time. Horses organs and lifespan age faster than humans no one knows the long term effects on the kidneys and heart. Are horses given Lasix when breezing or gallops or only before races? If it is only before races, I am even more puzzled by its use when no medical problem obviously exists. In my humble opinion, horses that experience respiratory bleeding should not be raced.
Mikethemessenger465 More than 1 year ago
Try telling an owner who dropped 7 figures on a foal that they have to stop racing the horse once they find out it bleeds.