Uniform Racehorse Drug Program Picking Up Support

Uniform Racehorse Drug Program Picking Up Support

The controlled therapeutic substances list of 26 commonly used medications is in place in nine states, and another eight states are in the adoption process.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Multiple racing jurisdictions have adopted all or parts of the National Uniform Medication Program, with others expected to be on board by the end of this year.

Dionne Benson, DVM, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, provided an update July 8, first day of the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. The adoption process began in the Mid-Atlantic region a little more than a year ago.

The controlled therapeutic substances list of 26 commonly used medications is in place in nine states: Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. The list has been approved by regulatory agencies in California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

Another eight states are in the adoption process: Arizona, Idaho, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Benson said the RMTC is hopeful Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, and Texas will approve the list by the end of 2014; if that occurs it will cover about 78% of national pari-mutuel handle.

The 26 drugs on the list aren't permitted on race day. The updated threshold testing levels are designed to discourage overuse of the substances and for the most part represent "non-therapeutic residue levels," the RMTC says.

Third-party administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix, is being done in 12 states in some form: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia. California, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia are in the adoption process.

Third-party Salix administration, or at least the oversight of its administration, is designed to keep private veterinarians out of horses' stalls on race day. Benson said it has another benefit: There could be three to five regulatory vets on the backstretch who also serve as the "eyes and ears" from a security standpoint.

Laboratory accreditation under the National Uniform Medication Program has been widely embraced, according to the RMTC. By the end of 2014 it's expected 13 of the 14 labs that handle equine drug testing will be accredited by the International Organization for Standardization; in addition five have been RMTC-accredited, and another three have applied, Benson said.

Benson noted that in 2009, only three of the labs were ISO-accredited, and in 2011 none were RMTC-accredited.

The fourth component, called the multiple medication violation (MMV) penalty system, has been the toughest sell. The system, which assigns points for drug violations with tougher penalties for repeat offenders, is in place in seven jurisdictions: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Virginia.

The MMV penalty system is in the adoption process in New Mexico, Oregon, and West Virginia, where it must win legislative approval during the next session.

"More than anything, it's important this program is adopted by all the states," Benson said.

Benson said there has been forward movement on the National Uniform Medication Program in Florida and Louisiana. In Florida, industry stakeholders are lobbying the state legislature to adopt the program, though that may not happen until 2015. Louisiana, often referred to as an "outlier," appears to at least be considering the program.

"We were able to move them to the position of, 'We're working on it,' " Benson said of the Louisiana State Racing Commission. "If we get Florida and Louisiana (to adopt the program), I'm not sure who would have an excuse not to join the program."

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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