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No Lasix for 2YOs in Kentucky in 2020?

November 25, 2019
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By a vote of 6-2, the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council approved a recommendation on Monday morning (Nov. 25) to eliminate the use of furosemide (Lasix) in 2 year olds on race day beginning in 2020, and in 2021 to also ban furosemide in all stakes races conducted in the state. The Kentucky State Horse Racing Commission will now consider the recommendation at its next monthly meeting, Dec. 9. The recommendation passed includes all horse racing in the state.
 
The Drug Research Council’s recommendation had the support of Churchill Downs, with the company’s Mark Ziegler speaking in support.  Art Zubrod, manager of Brittany Farms, voted in favor of the recommendation. Other “yes” votes were made by veterinarians Stuart Brown, chairman of the panel, James Morehead, and Johnny Mac Smith, as well as Kentucky Senate majority leader Damon Thayer.
 
The two “no” votes were by Dr. Andy Roberts, a well known Standardbred breeder and racetrack veterinarian, and Dr. Mark Cheney, a Thoroughbred veterinarian who early in his career worked the backstretch at The Red Mile during the spring and fall meets.
 
The recommended limitations on furosemide also include allowing a horse in to go to be administered the medication up to 24 hours prior to race time. The horse would have to be on the grounds of the racetrack 24 hours in advance. The stipulation that horses be stabled on the grounds where they will race was included to make sure horses are not being dehydrated in order to minimize bleeding.
 
“This is not ready for primetime,” said Dr. Roberts. “This is not good for the horse. Anything that increases danger for the horse is bad.”
 
Dr. Roberts also noted that a new drug to prevent and control exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), or bleeding, in horses is presently in the development stage and has shown promise.
 
The recommendation which passed also came following the release of results of a new study that was made public Monday morning. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation sent out the results of the project it funded that shows horses benefit from being treated with furosemide 24 hours prior to racing.
 
There was some discussion at the meeting regarding the science behind the newly released study and whether or not it had been peer reviewed.
 
Among those in attendance at the meeting was Mike Tanner, CEO of the US Trotting Association. Tanner had prepared a statement to read, but at the beginning of the meeting it was announced that the pros and cons of the recommendation would only be discussed by the Drug Research Council members, that no outside comments would be permitted.
 
Instead, Tanner’s statement follows:
 
“In 2012 the United States Trotting Association (USTA) formally affirmed its position on the race day administration of furosemide, commonly known as Salix or Lasix. The Association’s stance remains unchanged today and is as follows.
 
“Considering all the issues concerning the race day administration of furosemide, the USTA believes the determining factor should be the welfare of the horse. It is clear to us that furosemide provides therapeutic benefits not only in helping bleeders but also in preventing bleeding before it starts.
 
“Given the stress experienced by equine athletes during competition, exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) is estimated to occur in excess of 90 percent of all racehorses.
 
“The use of furosemide (Lasix, Salix) has for quite some time been an accepted therapeutic resource for the horse industry in combating the effects of EIPH. In North America the use of this medication has been widely adopted in horse racing as a means of ensuring that racehorses do not suffer the ill effects associated with respiratory hemorrhage. As you all know, EIPH results in blood vessels breaking, and eventually such hemorrhaging has an extremely damaging effect on lung capacity as a result of the formation of scar tissue.
 
“Absent the development and introduction of a better method to mitigate the onset and effect of EIPH, the USTA believes that the most humane way to address this problem is through the continued approval of the race-day administration of furosemide for all Standardbred horses who require it, under controlled conditions and by a licensed veterinarian.  A number of respected, national veterinary groups, among them the American Association of Equine Practioners (AAEP) and the North American Association of Equine Practitioners (NAARV), have independently articulated similar positions.  
 
“The USTA recognizes the importance of optics, especially when navigating the politically-charged landscape that exists today. The past year’s well-publicized spate of Thoroughbred catastrophic breakdowns - something that, thankfully, rarely happens in harness racing - has altered the focus on horse racing.   We understand that.  However, doing what is right for the horse should always be the first priority.   This proposal does not do that, and will hurt, rather than help, Standardbred racehorses.” (harnessracing.com)
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