08/04/2011 6:16PM

Medication consortium would ban private administration of Lasix on race days


The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has endorsed a policy that would prohibit private veterinarians from administering the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, on race day, while avoiding the question of whether the drug should be banned outright.

The consortium, which represents a wide cross-section of industry organizations, adopted the policy on Thursday at a meeting in Kentucky, several months after the group was asked to examine the North American racing industry's raceday medication policies – specifically, the policies surrounding furosemide, which is legal to administer in the United States and Canada. Over the past five months, many racing organizations, including Breeders' Cup, the Jockey Club, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, have called for the drug to be banned on race day, but horsemen's groups have opposed the effort.

Under the policy adopted on Thursday, the consortium said that raceday administrations should be limited to state veterinarians, but the group did not adopt any policy on the raceday use of the drug itself. Currently, New York and Canada are the only states that prohibit private veterinarians from administering the drug, which is injected in regulated doses four hours before post time.
"It's not making a statement about the use of furosemide," said Chris Scherf, the vice chairman of the medication consortium. "What this will do is have the practical impact effect of eliminating the need for private veterinarians to visit horses entered that day, and provide assurances that the drug was administered in the proper dosage at the appropriate time."

Scherf is also the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, which had earlier endorsed a policy calling for the prohibition of furosemide on raceday.

Several weeks ago, the Breeders' Cup adopted a policy that bans furosemide on race day for horses entered in the five races in its 15-race year-end event that are restricted to 2-year-olds. The ban will be extended to all 15 races in 2013.

The consortium was formed approximately a decade ago to research medication issues and recommend policies. The group has no enforcement power, but it can recommend that racing commissions adopt rules and policies that it endorses.

Scherf said that the consortium believed that individual racing states should decide whether furosemide should be permitted on race day. The consortium will provide guidance to those states if the drug is banned by recommending what threshold drug-testing laboratories should adopt in order to enforce the ban while allowing horsemen to use the medication during training, a common policy and practice in the foreign racing jurisdictions where furosemide is already banned on race day.

Also under the policy adopted on Thursday, the consortium said that so-called "adjunct bleeder" medications should be banned in all states on race day. Only three states – Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland – allow the use of adjunct medications.

The policy adopted by the consortium on Thursday is nearly identical to a policy endorsed by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association several weeks ago at its national conventions. In adopting the policy, the national horsemen's association has maintained that it will continue to oppose efforts to roll back raceday use of furosemide.

The consortium was asked to study raceday medications after a two-day summit in early June focusing on the use of the furosemide. After one day of presentations focusing on the biological basis of bleeding, the efficacy of furosemide in treating the condition, and the ways in which foreign jurisdictions regulated use of the drug, a second day of closed-door meetings did not produce a consensus on use of the drug.