A recommendation to lower the recommended threshold for phenylbutazone from 5 micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum to 2 micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum will be considered by the Model Rules Committee of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.
The recommendation will be considered by the Model Rules Committee during a conference call Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. EDT. Phenylbutazone is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication commonly referred to as bute.
"This potential change seeks to address concerns raised by the RCI regulatory veterinarians committee that the current policy may jeopardize the ability of regulatory veterinarians to conduct a valid pre-race examination of racing equines since current research indicates that higher levels of Bute potentially interfere with pain perception in the equine athletes," RCI said in a release. "Based on this concern, RCI requested a review of this matter as well a review of current the corticosteroids policy by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium late last year.
"The RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Rick Arthur of the California Horse Racing Board and comprised of Drs. Bobby Lewis, Tom Brokken, Rick Sams, Tom Tobin, Larry Soma, Al Kind, George Maylin, Scott Stanley, and Don Catlin, made a recommendation that was adopted by the RMTC in April and forwarded to RCI."
The RCI Drug Testing Standards and Practices Committee voted unanimously May 14 to endorse changing the threshold level for phenylbutazone to 2 micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum, a policy currently in effect in the state of Maryland, according to the release.
Action on the Bute threshold by the Model Rules Committee was deferred at a July 23 meeting at the request of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. According to RCI, the National HBPA wanted additional time to debate the issue and forward additional information to the RCI.
The horsemen's group, which held a lengthy forum on the proposal during its summer convention in late July, doesn't support the threshold change.
According to RCI, the proposed change has support from The Jockey Club Welfare and Safety Committee and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, among others.
"We clearly understand that this is a controversial matter with some horsemen, and we have taken every step to be deliberate in our consideration of this issue," RCI president Ed Martin said in a statement.
Any recommendation from the Model Rules Committee would be considered by the RCI board of directors when it meets in early October.