Mid-Atlantic region mandates prohibition on use of bisphosphonates

Posted: March 26, 2019

The entire Mid-Atlantic region—regulators, horsemen’s organizations, breeders’ organizations, racetrack operators and veterinarians—has joined together to mandate an immediate and strict prohibition on the use of bisphosphonates in all horses under the age of 4.

The decision was made at the annual Mid-Atlantic Regulatory and Stakeholders meeting held at Delaware Park March 21. The action followed a recommendation from the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors March 7 to implement a regional and national ban.

The Mid-Atlantic mandate is as follows:

“The entire Mid-Atlantic region will impose, and strongly urges all Thoroughbred industry stakeholders and regulators to support, the enactment of an immediate prohibition on the use of bisphosphonates in all horses under the age of 4, unless and until the scientific and veterinary community determines that the use of such drugs does not compromise the health and welfare of the horse. The use of bisphosphonates in horses 4 years old and older should be limited to only those horses who have been diagnosed with navicular disease by a veterinarian and for whom the use of such drugs is warranted.”

The organizations, stakeholders and regulators who joined in the directive are:

Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
New York Gaming Commission
New York Racing Association
New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc.
Maryland Racing Commission
Maryland Jockey Club
Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Maryland Horse Breeders Association
New Jersey Racing Commission
Darby Development (Monmouth Park)
New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey
Delaware Park
Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission
Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission
Parx Racing
Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association
Penn National Gaming Inc.
Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
West Virginia Racing Commission
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association
Colonial Downs
Virginia Racing Commission
National Steeplechase Association

The National HBPA, which participated in the Mid-Atlantic meeting and voted at the meeting to support the directive, has issued its formal support and will urge all its affiliates to join with their Mid-Atlantic affiliates in a nationwide prohibition.

“There is absolutely no reason for these drugs to be administered to a horse, except under the very limited circumstance for which they were approved by the FDA,” said Alan Foreman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the THA and longtime coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic meetings. “While we recognize that there are scientific and testing challenges, we’ve known for over a year now that there is no legitimate extra-label use for these drugs in racing and breeding and we must act to stop it now if we are to fulfill our commitment to the health and welfare of the horse.”

“The regulatory community strongly supports this action and will take the necessary steps to see that it is enforced,” said Mike Hopkins, Executive Director of the Maryland Racing Commission and Chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International. “I thank our Mid-Atlantic regulators and stakeholders for joining together quickly and unanimously to implement this prohibition and will seek the full support of the ARCI at our meeting in California.”

The ARCI Racing Integrity and Animal Welfare Conference will be held April 2-5.

“The National HBPA and its affiliates are, and have always been, committed to the highest standards of equine health and welfare,” National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback said. “Together, we join with other major industry stakeholders and regulators in supporting an immediate prohibition on the off-label use of bisphosphonates, which we believe is in the best interest of our equine athletes and our industry.”

Bisphosphonates are prescribed to treat bone loss in humans, but the Federal Drug Administration approves of their use to treat navicular disease, a common cause of lameness, only in horses 4 years old and older.