Bills to Alter Kentucky Drug Research Statute Withdrawn

Two bills that would permit officials in Kentucky to spend money on equine drug research out of state were withdrawn from consideration in the state House of Representatives.

Rep. Tom Burch introduced the two bills Feb. 11-12 in the House of Representatives. They were sent to the House Licensing and Occupations Committee but apparently will not be acted up during the current legislative session. The Kentucky legislative Web site confirmed the measures were withdrawn, as did insiders at the state capital.

Current statute mandates the money the Kentucky Equine Drug Council receives from the state via the Kentucky Racing Commission remain at in-state research facilities. The drug council would like discretion over where state funds should be spent, but supporters of the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, where most research is performed, believe any substantial change could threaten the program at the school.

One bill specified the funds--almost $800,000 in 2003--be used in Kentucky unless the drug council and the racing commission determined the money could be spent more effectively elsewhere. The second bill said the money must be used in the state unless the drug council or the racing commission "identifies a research facility elsewhere that has research capabilities that surpass those that are available in Kentucky."

The drug council last year hired Dr. Richard Sams of Ohio State University to serve as a consultant. At a drug council meeting Jan. 10, he was instructed to begin a review of the "performance and productivity" of the UK laboratory under Dr. Thomas Tobin's direction.

During a recent interview, Dr. Peter Timoney, director of the UK College of Veterinary Science, said any legislative change that shifts money away from the school could be problematic. The equine pharmacological program began in 1975.

Timoney said he and Tobin welcome a review of the school's program "if conducted by an appropriately qualified individual and conducted in an entirely objective, scientifically-based manner."

At its last meeting in January, the racing commission approved of the drug council's endeavor to get the statute changed so the funds could be spent outside of Kentucky if deemed advisable.