Uniform Drug Reform Discussed in Kentucky

An initial introduction in Kentucky of the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Program received some raised eyebrows, but supporters of the changes are encouraged that the important racing state is giving the program some consideration.

The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, an advisory committee that makes medication policy recommendations to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, received an introduction to the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication Program from KHRC equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay during an Aug. 14 meeting at the KHRC offices in Lexington.

Scollay included a chart that outlined the similarities and differences between current Kentucky medication rules and those of the uniform medication program, which has been approved by regulators in eight states.

The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association supports the reforms, which it hopes could pave the way for national uniformity. The program allows just 24 therapeutic medications and allows only Salix (furosemide, commonly called Lasix) to be administered on race day.

The policy also calls for uniform sanctions for violations, uniform approved testing labs, and outlines withdrawal times for the 24 approved therapeutic medications.

Scollay noted that the Thoroughbred Owners of California approved the policies and has asked the California Horse Racing Board to take action, and regulatory boards in Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio also are considering the program. State regulators in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Massachusetts have indicated they approve.

Scollay told KEDRC members that ideally she would change some things but believes the benefits of uniformity would be substantial. She noted that uniform changes could be made going forward because a committee would meet twice a year to consider policy changes.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, like the National HBPA, has expressed concerns about the proposal. The National HBPA said it would favor the addition of therapeutic medications to the list of 24.

Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles, a KEDRC council member, said the group's concerns include that issue and go beyond it. The National HBPA and THA are the country's largest horsemen's groups.

Another potential problem in Kentucky is that it has the only racing commission that has adopted a measure to phase out race-day Salix use from listed and graded stakes beginning next year. Because no other state has adopted a similar policy, perhaps Kentucky would not move forward with those plans. But opponents of race-day medication in the state may frown on the Mid-Atlantic proposal, which allows race-day use of Salix.

KEDRC member and state Sen. Damon Thayer believes the reason the THA supports the reforms is to assure that Salix will continue to be allowed on race day. "This doesn't tackle Lasix. It's a case of, 'We'll do this, just let us keep our Lasix,' " Thayer said. "That's what this is all about."

THA chairman Alan Foreman said because of the goal of uniformity, ideally Kentucky would not be able to receive an exception on its Salix policy. But he believes it unlikely the state will move forward on Salix restrictions because no other state has acted.

"There is no other state looking at implementing any full or partial ban. I think it needlessly complicates what we're trying to accomplish," Foreman said. "I get the sense that they're kind of getting off that and that they're not moving forward."

At the Aug. 14 meeting, no vote was scheduled or taken on the Mid-Atlantic program. Foreman said he believes Kentucky horsemen will come around to the new policy, noting the opportunity for additions of medications after a review by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

He said policies that have caused the most concern in other states already are in place in Kentucky, which like the program requires third-party administration of race-day Salix, prohibits adjunct bleeder medications on race day, and has a fully accredited testing laboratory.

"We think this program is going to become the national uniform medication and drug-testing program," Foreman said. "There are a number of states that either have the program under consideration or they're actually moving forward. Of course we're hopeful that Kentucky, because of its importance to the industry, is one of those."

Still, the changes appear to face an uphill battle in Kentucky. KEDRC member Dr. Andy Roberts, a veterinarian, said he prefers Kentucky rules to some of the changes the Mid-Atlantic reform would bring. 

"Uniformity should be king," Roberts said. "However, that being said, adopting Pennsylvania's ruleswhich is de facto what this isI don't think is the right way to go."

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