RMTC Calls Nikethamide 'Very Dangerous Drug' for Horses

While a recent positive test for the drug nikethamide is the first in more than a decade in U.S. horse racing, the dangerous nature of the Class I drug has the attention of regulators following a positive in July 2012.

While trainer Chris Grove plans to appeal the decision, stewards at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, in Charles Town, W.Va., suspended him for six months and fined him $5,000 Feb. 28 following a positive test for the stimulant in July. Stewards assigned the same penalties to Grove's assistant Misael Ceciliano.

According to research by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), the July 2012 positive for nikethamide is the first in U.S. racing since 2001.

Nikethamide has made headlines in the past, though. Use of the stimulant was more prevalent in the U.S. in the 1980s. In 1953 three stakes winners at the Royal Randwick meeting in Australia, including Doncaster Handicap winner Tarien, were disqualified following positives for nikethamide.

Nikethamide, or nicotinic acid diethylamide, was originally used as a stimulant to treat overdoses of sedatives, particularly barbiturates. The use of nikethamide for this purpose has been replaced by other, more effective, and safer treatments.

After conferring with research consultant Rick Sams, PhD, the RMTC noted that nikethamide is a very dangerous drug for use in a horse because it has a significant possibility of producing adverse effects, including death.

Because of the dangerous nature and the non-existent legitimate market for nikethamide, the RMTC is not aware of any U.S. company that manufactures or distributes it for human or veterinary use. In Europe and South America, however, nikethamide is commercially available in a lozenge for use as a respiratory stimulant.

In the latter half of the 20th century, a number of human athletes and racehorses tested positive for the substance. It has been banned from competition by the World Anti-Doping Association and is a Class 1 drug, the highest level under the Association of Racing Commissioners International model rules.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Frank Angst

Frank Angst is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine. An American Horse Publications three-time winner in best news story category, Angst has covered horse racing for more than a decade. Angst spent ten years at Thoroughbred Times, where he earned awards as that magazine’s senior writer and helped launch Thoroughbred Times TODAY. Besides covering horse racing, Angst enjoys handicapping. Angst has written about sports for more than 20 years, including several seasons covering a nationally ranked Marshall Thundering Herd football team.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More