AAEP voices opposition to latest version of federal medication bill

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: June 7, 2017

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, which has been active in establishing uniform medication rules for horse racing, has issued its opposition to the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 in part because of the bill’s ban on race-day Lasix.

The AAEP in July 2015 released a 10-point plan designed to enhance equine health and integrity in racing. The document states the AAEP “supports the use of furosemide to control the negative effects of (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage) in racehorses” but continues to investigate “efficacious management strategies for (EIPH) that do not require race-day medication administration.”

The organization said it would identify research priorities that could yield effective treatment protocols for EIPH.

The latest version of the Horseracing Integrity Act was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by previous co-sponsors Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, and Rep. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat. Among the changes from the 2015 version are the ban on race-day Lasix and the addition of Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing.

AAEP President Dr. Reynolds Cowles on June 5 issued a statement on the legislation that raises the organization’s concerns.

“While the American Association of Equine Practitioners supports the uniformity of medication rules in U.S. horse racing, which is one of the chief goals of the Horseracing Integrity Act, our association opposes the newly introduced version of the legislation,” Cowles said. “The AAEP’s current policy on race-day medication administration endorses the use of furosemide to help mitigate the occurrence of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in the racehorse. This policy is based on the overwhelming body of international scientific and clinical evidence.

“H.R. 2651 seeks to end the administration of furosemide on race day, which conflicts with the AAEP’s long-held position. While we are optimistic that current research projects will yield an alternative treatment for EIPH which does not require race-day administration, as doctors of veterinary medicine we cannot abandon our current policy until science provides an efficacious option for protecting the health and welfare of the horse.”

As for the regulatory aspects of the federal bill, Cowles said the “ability of the (United States Anti-Doping Agency) to regulate a sport which has far more participants than any sport it currently oversees remains a concern for the AAEP.” He also said the AAEP is pleased the revised bill includes a veterinarian as part of the governing body—the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority—and new language “to clearly delineate the role of therapeutic medication and a formal anti-doping program.”

“We appreciate the opportunity provided to us previously by Rep. Barr to offer input on the legislation in the areas of governance and veterinary involvement,” Cowles said. “Although our suggestions were not incorporated into this version of the bill, the AAEP wishes to continue to serve as a resource to Rep. Barr and Rep. Tonko as issues affecting the health and the welfare of the racehorse are considered.”

The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, like the AAEP, has a long-standing position in support of the use of race-day Lasix. The THA for more than a decade has been integral in adoption of national uniform medication and penalty rules as well as elimination of all other race-day medications.