A group of scientists met with representatives of the Thoroughbred Owners of California Jan. 18 to discuss exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging and later issued a joint statement supporting use of the anti-bleeding drug furosemide.
The TOC issued the statement via a Jan. 27 press release. The meeting wasn't publicized ahead of time and was invitation-only, according to the TOC.
The TOC like other horsemen's groups in North America believe use of race-day furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, shouldn't be banned. California later this year will host the Breeders' World Championships, at which race-day Salix is scheduled to be banned in all races.
Breeders' Cup has given no public indication it plans to reverse its planned policy. During the 2012 World Championships at Santa Anita Park, Salix was banned in 2-year-old stakes only.
The TOC said the Jan. 18 event was co-chaired by Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center founder and TOC board member Dr. Mark Dedomenico and Dr. Wayne McIlwraith of Colorado State University. Travel expenses for all participants were paid for by Dedomenico, a heart surgeon and staunch advocate of Salix.
The panelists, according to the TOC, were Drs. Samantha Brooks of Cornell University; Gordon Cohen of UC-San Francisco; Dedomenico; David Frisbie and Chris Kawcak of Colorado State University; Alan Guthrie of University of Pretoria, South Africa; Kenneth Hinchcliff of the University of Melbourne; McIlwraith and Paul Morley of Colorado State University; and Ed Robinson and Alice Stack of Michigan State University.
The consensus statement is as follows: "Exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage is a consequence of the high pulmonary vascular pressures achieved by elite athlete horses during strenuous exercise. A similar condition occurs in racing Greyhounds and has been reported in some elite human athletes. In all of these situations, the heart is approaching its maximal functional capacity.
"EIPH has a detrimental effect on performance in Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. The only treatment that has been shown to prevent the occurrence and decrease severity of EIPH in Thoroughbred racehorses is furosemide. The result of furosemide administration is a decrease in pulmonary vascular pressures.
"On average, horses administered furosemide have better performance. This could be attributable to the reduction in EIPH. or to other factors. Horses administered furosemide on a routine basis have not been recognized to experience detrimental effects. Furosemide does not mask detection or other agents when modern analytical methods are used."
The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and other groups have pushed for a ban on race-day Salix use. They believe the results of racing Salix-free horses, such as 2-year-olds, need to be carefully evaluated.
The TOC meeting included discussion about the status of knowledge and research into EIPH, racetrack surface injuries, traumatic joint injury including catastrophic injuries, blood bio-markers that could signal impending injuries, and the use of platelet rich plasma and stem cells in treating equine injuries, according to TOC. The TOC said the group also "identified several key areas for future research, including cardiac and vascular physiology contributing to EIPH in the U.S. and abroad, pharmacological agents and their efficacy, the potential role of genetics, and the effects of EIPH on well-being."