With Kentucky soon putting more stringent regulations in place regarding the administration of corticosteroids, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is collecting information on elimination times following specific uses of the medications provided by participating racetrack veterinarians.
On June 6, the uniform medication rules the KHRC approved late last year will become reality at Kentucky tracks. Some of the biggest changes in the rules involve corticosteroids. Recommended withdrawal times for three corticosteroids—betamethasone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone—will jump to seven days from the current 48 or 72 hours.
KHRC equine medical director Mary Scollay noted that the withdrawal times offered as guidance with the uniform medication rules were shaped from a study with controlled parameters, which Scollay noted, are needed for effective scientific study.
While the scientific study looked at single injections into healthy animals, racetrack veterinarians may encounter situations in the field that are not as controlled. For instance, they may give a horse injections in more than one joint or the horse may have swelling that wasn't present in the test animals. The KHRC hopes to address those issues by providing information collected in the field.
The KHRC has asked track veterinarians to participate in a study that will document how fast specific corticosteroids are eliminated from a horse's system. Where the scientific study provides controlled insight, the information compiled by the KHRC will provide track veterinarians guidance under specific conditions.
"You can start to get a level of comfort with dose and withdrawal time in order to be in compliance with the regulation," Scollay said.
Participating trainers will draw blood in the days following the treatment and those samples will be examined by the KHRC lab, HFL Sport Science, to determine the levels of corticosteroid in the horse's system. Horse's names are not released in the study but information on the treatment and elimination rates are provided to the participating vet.
All of the information is being compiled on the KHRC website to allow other veterinarians an opportunity to look at specific instances.
Information that will be provided includes the joint or joints that are treated, the medication, the dose, and the route of administration.
Racetrack veterinarian Foster Northrop, who also is a commissioner with the KHRC, is participating in the study. He is comfortable with the guidance on corticosteroids in the treatment of joints but is concerned the medication is staying in the horse's system longer when corticosteroids are used to treat muscle injuries.
Scollay noted that she would like to have more veterinarians participate in the study. As of May 13, only four had signed up.
At the May 13 KHRC meeting, commission member and Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas asked if there would be any buffer time for horsemen as the state moves to the new policy. KHRC staff advised the rule would have to be changed at the state level at this point and there would be no buffer time. They did add that stewards could consider mitigating circumstances if overages occur.