National HBPA Seeks Answers on Drug Uniformity

The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association medication committee, in response to concerns from affiliates in Kentucky and Ohio, has asked its affiliates to make known their position on the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's proposal for uniform medication and drug testing.

The Jan. 16 request came after representatives of the Kentucky HBPA said they're unsure of the extent to which other horsemen's groups and regulators support the policy, which has been in the works for more than two years and led to the development of model rules. The confusion centers on race-day medication provisions.

"We are getting much information that there is not uniformity (on the 24-hour rule)," said Susan Bunning, president of the Kentucky HBPA. "Affiliates have said, 'Yes, we're in agreement, but...' To me, that's not uniformity."

The medication committee met during the National HBPA winter convention in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting featured a presentation by Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club and chairman of the national medication consortium, which will meet the week of Jan. 17. The Kentucky HBPA, which has sought a seat at the table, will for the first time have representatives at a consortium meeting.

Fick said the consortium would discuss a draft document on therapeutic medication, as well as tackle objectives for 2005. They include a funding mechanism--a $5 per-start fee has been suggested--financial support from racetracks for security and testing, enactment of the model rules in various jurisdictions, a communication plan to educate the industry, and lab accreditation.

The consortium has made substantial progress, and no HBPA affiliates have questioned the need for uniformity in medication, drug testing, or penalties for violations. But Arkansas HBPA member Bill Walmsley, a member of the medication committee, said the race-day question must be answered.

"There may be 90% agreement (for the model rules), but it's not necessarily 100%," Walmsley said. "(The inquiry) is something that needs to be done."

Dan Theno, executive director of the Ohio HBPA, said the membership agrees with "97.9% of what is suggested" in the model rules, which currently call for only Salix on race-day, with one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug 24 hours out. Thresholds have been set for other NSAIDs at 48 hours before a race.

Theno said the Ohio HBPA is concerned about the rules for NSAIDs and withdrawal times. "The 48-hour rule may hinder the efficacy of some medications," Theno said. "We're concerned about the fact different types of medications are used for different symptoms, but the uniform rule says you can only treat for one symptom."

The Ohio State Racing Commission is scheduled to meet Jan. 20 and is expected to discuss the model rules offered by the consortium. Theno said the commission could allow use of amicar--an adjunct bleeder medication--on race day to compensate for more stringent medication rules.

Adjunct bleeder medications are used on race day in several Mid-Atlantic states. The consortium hasn't taken a position on them, pending scientific research. Horsemen in West Virginia, however, have said they're not willing to give up adjunct bleeder medications, while Maryland horsemen are said to have taken the same position.

The consortium settled on a Salix-only position primarily because there was a consensus among members. The group is looking at almost 50 therapeutic medications in an effort to set thresholds and guidelines based on scientific evidence. Fick said there could be additions to the policy with a consensus of the membership.

In Kentucky, multiple therapeutic substances are used on race day. The Kentucky HBPA supports current practices and is concerned by the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council's plan to possibly recommend passage of the model rules during a Feb. 4 meeting.

"It's my belief we're probably moving too quickly in the state of Kentucky," Bunning said. "My belief is we're not at a point where we could even think about approving (the policy). Members of the drug council aren't even familiar with the plan as outlined."

Remi Bellocq, executive director of the National HBPA, told affiliate representatives to contact state regulators and ask how they plan to approach the national policy. The HBPA has about 30 affiliates, most of which were represented at the convention.

"You have to have dialogue with local regulators, you have to know what you're talking about, and you have to clearly understand where you're losing ground or gaining ground," Bellocq said.