Adjunct Bleeder Medication Ban Advanced in KY

Panel also recommends lowering threshold level for phenylbutazone.

An advisory panel to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has approved a recommendation to prohibit the race-day use of adjunct bleeder medications in the state.

By a vote of 5-2, the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council Aug. 19 agreed to include an adjunct bleeder medication ban in its final medication recommendations that will be sent to the full racing commission later. The EDRC is meeting on a regular basis as part of a process of reviewing and revising the state’s medication rules.

KHRC equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay said the advisory board voted to recommend prohibition of adjunct bleeder medications, which can be administered to horses in addition to the common anti-bleeder medication Salix, as a matter of uniformity and because there is no scientific evidence “support the efficacy of adjunct bleeder medications.”

Also, Scollay said, Kentucky racing has a higher rate of epistaxis, or bleeding from the nose, than most other jurisdictions, indicating the possibility that the “availability of adjuncts has had a negative impact on the quality of horses running in Kentucky.”

Noting that Kentucky is among a minority of states allowing such medications, Scollay said: “I think it is pretty clear that high-quality racing can be conducted safely without them.”

Also on a 5-2 vote, the EDRC agreed to recommend that the threshold level for phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, be lowered from five micrograms per milliliter of plasma or serum to two micrograms. Phenylbutazone, a pain reliever commonly referred to as Bute, can be administered up to 24 hours before a race in most jurisdictions.

Last fall the Association of Racing Commissioners International approved a model rule calling for the lower Bute threshold. RCI said it had received formal support for the lower threshold from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, The Jockey Club, the Jockeys’ Guild, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

On a 6-1 vote the council approved a recommendation to have Salix administered on race days by the commission’s veterinarians rather than a trainer’s private veterinarian.

The EDRC review comes at a time when there are national moves under way to revise medication regulations, with some steps already being taken to prohibit the race day use of Salix in graded stakes. 

Once the EDRC completes its work on the medication rules, the recommendations will be sent to the KHRC Rules Committee for review and approval. Once the commission votes on the regulations, another regulatory process will begin that will include public hearings.