Big Changes Could Be Coming Soon To Kentucky Medication Regulations - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Big Changes Could Be Coming Soon To Kentucky Medication Regulations

Morning workouts at Keeneland

Changes to Kentucky's Lasix rules have been much-discussed and much-debated, and they're now entering the final stages of approval. On Aug. 25, the new rules will come before the Kentucky General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations. If passed, they will become law on the same day.

But while the Lasix rules have gotten the most ink from this and other publications, they're just one component in a group of health and safety regulations that could soon change for Kentucky horsemen.

Also on the list for the committee Aug. 25 are the following rule changes:

  • A longer pre-race window for non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which now much be given no closer than 48 hours pre-race instead of 24.
  • A ban on stacking for pre-race NSAIDs, which means that if more than one NSAID is given, the first must be at least 48 hours pre-race and the other no less than four days pre-race. (Currently in Kentucky, one NSAID may be given 24 hours out from a race, and a second, if desired, must be at least 48 hours out.) Some NSAIDs have even longer pre-race administration windows, depending on the way they're understood to break down in the horse's body.
  • A 14-day stand-down for all intra-articular corticosteroids and a ban on stacking of those medications
  • A ban on bisphosphonates in horses under four years old. Horses four and older can receive the drug if they have a medical diagnosis of navicular syndrome (which is the FDA-approved use of the drug) and must stay on the veterinarian's list for at least six months. Veterinarians must be the ones to administer the bisphosphonates if they are prescribed.
  • A ban on any sort of electronic therapies, including PEMF, cryotherapy, salt water spas, etc. on race day. The only therapy permitted on race day will be nebulizers, which may only be filled with saline solution on that day.
  • A requirement for a horse's private veterinarian to examine a horse and sign a paper certifying their medical fitness for each race entry
  • A requirement for trainers to maintain a horse's veterinary records in case a racing official requests them at the barn

Dr. Bruce Howard, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said that the goal with most of these changes is to keep racehorses safer and make it easier for regulatory veterinarians to do a thorough job.

Some new rules, like the requirement for private veterinarians to certify horses before and after workouts, have already been in place at Keeneland and Churchill Downs through house rule. (That house rule also requires private veterinarians to screen horses ahead of workouts, too, which won't be part of the state regulation.)

California veterinarians have also been subject to similar requirements at The Stronach Group racetracks and Howard said he saw the same phases of reaction here that regulators there got – initial skepticism, concern, and finally, a positive response.

“We heard complaints and concerns before it started,” he said. “The nice thing that I'm hearing back from a fair number of private practitioners is they feel that they're doing some good, they're seeing things they might not have seen before. I really think it's adding to the safety of racing and I'm hoping it continues on.

“Our philosophy on this is the more eyes on a horse, the better. This does not take away from our responsibility as regulatory vets with the race day exams. We still do that exactly like we did. This is just an extra set of eyes on a horse. I think the more times a horse can be looked at, if there is a problem there's a better chance it's going to be spotted early and taken care of.”

Other regulations, like the intra-articular corticosteroid and NSAID timeframes, will be completely new to Kentucky trainers.

“Corticosteroids are used for their anti-inflammatory effect,” he said. “They also have an analgesic effect and the thought is if we're masking pain or lameness that close to a race, we think that has a detrimental effect on racing safety. We want to be able to examine the horses and get a true look at their state of soundness when we do our pre-race exams. The corticosteroids, the NSAID drugs, they all can have analgesic effects. We think backing these drugs up to the timeframes mentioned will give us a much better chance as regulatory vets of being able to evaluate these horses. We hope that translates into safer racing. We think it will.”

The same philosophy applies to the therapies that will now be banned within 24 hours of race time; some had advertised or rumored to create an analgesic effect, and regulatory veterinarians worry about how much that could influence their pre-race examinations.

The rationale behind the new Lasix rules is more to keep Kentucky on pace with the rest of the world, rather than a belief that pushing back Lasix administration will have an impact on safety. Assuming the proposed regulations pass committee, Lasix will only be permitted 24 hours out from a race for all 2-year-olds this year. Next year, the same regulation will apply to stakes horses. Howard said state veterinarians will not administer Lasix when the timeframe backs up to 24 hours; that will become the responsibility of private veterinarians.

“Internationally, most countries do not allow Lasix on race day,” he said. “We are trying to come into line with what the rest of the racing world is and have uniform guidelines. Some public perception of horses being medicated on race day, that's a factor as well, but we're basically trying to be in line with the rest of the world.”

Howard said the commission is in talks with racetracks to do some fact-finding on the impact of 24-hour Lasix on 2-year-olds. In Maryland, where horsemen just agreed to a 48-hour Lasix policy for 2-year-olds, trainers were recently alerted that all 2-year-olds would be scoped after the race for the remainder of the year to see how many of them had signs of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) without the drug. It's too early to know yet how such a monitoring program could work in Kentucky, but Howard is hopeful good data will come with the change.

For now, Howard said he's focused on getting the word out that these regulation changes could be taking effect soon. The last thing he says the commission wants is to surprise anyone – especially when it comes to the new corticosteroid and NSAID guidance, which are the most complicated of the new rules.

“We're trying to blast this out to as many people as we can,” he said. “We don't want people getting caught flat-footed and getting violations because they weren't notified of these changes.”

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