TOC Agrees on Need for Medication Consensus

By Jack Shinar

California is on board with a nationwide push for a consensus on racehorse medication, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California reported to his board the week of Dec. 10. But the TOC does have its own opinions on some of the specifics.

John Van de Kamp told the TOC board that the Dec. 4 meeting called by the American Association of Equine Practitioners at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing brought together experts from around the country who were in agreement with the TOC's positions in several areas.

"I think that what they discussed is relatively consistent with what our medication committee came up with," said Van de Kamp, who was an invited participant at the AAEP medication summit in Tucson.

The TOC medication committee's position paper was released in November in response to reports on medication policies prepared by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Van de Kamp said the consensus generated at the summit was for closely monitored race-day use of Salix (formerly Lasix), and a 24-hour rule on use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Van de Kamp said those positions are in line with those of the TOC.

Threshold levels for therapeutic drugs, favored by the TOC medication committee, were also discussed at the summit, Van de Kamp said, but the issue of contaminants was left up in the air. The TOC committee favors threshold levels; it recognizes the possibility of environmental contamination but says there must not be evidence of intentional administration of a substance. Drugs such as benzoylegonine, caffeine, and morphine are part of a list of possible contaminants cited in the TOC report.

Threshold, or decision, levels could provide an obstacle to any uniform national drug-testing and medication policy. The National HBPA, in its testing and medication document, suggests threshold levels for 12 drugs, including the bronchodilator clenbuterol and the tranquilizer acepromazine. But the THA says it will oppose threshold levels for the vast majority of drugs until the use of furosemide (Salix) is better regulated.

The TOC report supports the establishment of withdrawal times for accepted drugs, but says such guidelines should be only advisory.

Van de Kamp told his board the consensus at the medication summit was that a funding mechanism, if created, should be supported by the entire industry. The money would be used to upgrade drug-testing methods and to support research.

"TOC remains committed to the establishment of national standards, further research into new performance-altering drugs and substances, and additional research to establish stronger scientific support for nationally accepted decision levels," Van de Kamp said. "TOC does not believe the cost of this research should all fall on owners."