11/24/2014 2:20PM

New York adopts new drug rules


The New York State Gaming Commission on Monday adopted a set of new medication rules that will unify most of the major racing states in the Northeast, more than a year after the rules were first proposed in the region’s most important racing jurisdiction.

The new rules are based on the recommendations from several national racing groups that have been pushing states to adopt regulations that provide for the regulated use of 26 therapeutic medications, with all other drugs banned. The New York rules provide for the use of 24 of the 26 identified therapeutic medications because when New York first proposed the rules, two additional medications had yet to be identified by the national groups for inclusion.

New York is the linchpin of the Northeast racing world, and the adoption of the rules, which will become effective Jan. 1, brings the state in line with Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia. Pennsylvania also is considering adoption of the same medication schedule.

Still, it took more than a year for the rules to be formally adopted, in part because of objections from Standardbred horsemen and in part because of bureaucratic delays that have yet to be publicly explained. Revised rules were sent up the state chain of command in March for review and were not released for formal adoption until recently.

New York also has yet to take up a new penalty schedule for medication violations that is also being widely adopted in other states. The new schedule provides for much harsher penalties for repeat offenders of medication rules.

Although the drug rules were unanimously approved, one member of the commission, Peter Moschetti, stated during the Monday meeting that he thought New York should support tighter restrictions on drug use. Dr. Scott Palmer, the gambling commission’s equine medication director, countered that it was important to stick with the national recommendations.

“It is an extremely important thing to have a national uniform policy,” Palmer said, listing the organizations that have called for states to adopt the new rules, including The Jockey Club and the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

Thoroughbred horsemen in New York have rallied behind the adoption of the new rules, which will have the most significant impact on the use of injectable anti-inflammatories like corticosteroids and the bronchodilator clenbuterol. However, the use of those drugs also has been more tightly regulated over the past two years through emergency rules passed on a stop-gap basis after the release of a report in 2012 examining deaths at Aqueduct racetrack.

In many states that have adopted the new rules, positive drug tests for the regulated medications have spiked in the months following adoption as trainers and veterinarians adjust to new treatment regimens. Palmer said the gambling commission will work to notify horsemen about the impact of the new regulations in the month ahead, relying principally on the ontrack distribution of materials explaining the rules.