Updated on 12/21/2012 10:41AM

Prohibition of corticosteroids within 72 hours of race recommended


A racing-medication policy group has approved recommendations on corticosteroid use that would prohibit the administration of one of the most popular of the anti-inflammatory drugs within 72 hours of a race and also ban joint injections of the drugs within seven days of a race, the group announced on Thursday.

The recommendations were approved following the receipt of scientific research conducted with funds provided by the group, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and the conclusion of a conference among veterinarians on Nov. 30 to discuss the drugs. Corticosteroid use, along with the use of many other therapeutic medications, has become a topic of study in the racing industry over the past several years as the industry attempts to combat overuse of many medications and the negative perception created by prevailing veterinary practices.

Specifically, the RMTC recommended that dexamethasone, one of the most commonly used corticosteroids, be banned within three days of a race. It said it favored a “similar ban” on all other corticosteroids, along with a ban on any intra-articular administrations of corticosteroids within seven days of a race. Intra-articular administrations are injections directly into a joint to reduce inflammation, and the injections have been linked to degradations in joint tissue in some studies.

Most racing jurisdictions currently ban the use of corticosteroids within 48 hours of a race, though some jurisdictions have 24-hour bans in place. The RMTC said in a release that the group recommended that the new policies be adopted with a “grace period” as an acknowledgment that the recommendations will “fundamentally change the use of corticosteroids and veterinary practice in racing.”

The RMTC, which is funded by a wide cross-section of racing groups, has increasingly acted as a policy maker in U.S. racing during the last five years. The group’s recommendations are typically taken up by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, an umbrella group of racing commissions, which then adopts model rules that are forwarded to its members for approval.

Earlier this year, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board adopted rules similar to the restrictions recommended by the RMTC in response to a study examining a spate of breakdowns at Aqueduct racetrack in early 2012. Although the study did not causatively link the use of corticosteroids to the breakdowns, it called for a reconsideration of the state’s existing policies because of the ability of the drugs to reduce pain at potential sites of injury or stress.