The Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council (EDRC) is considering additional restrictions on clenbuterol use in the state after hair testing reveals widespread use in horses placed on the veterinarian’s list after this year’s federal indictments.

Dr. Bruce Howard, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, revealed at an EDRC meeting Sept. 11 that “a near 100 percent rate” of horses based in Kentucky had shown signs of clenbuterol administration on hair testing. Further, treatment sheets submitted to the KHRC as part of veterinary reporting regulations have shown instances of veterinarians prescribing the drug to entire stables.

“The KHRC office has received concerns from numerous trainers and owners who feel that clenbuterol is being misused,” said Howard, who pointed out California, Maryland, Canada, and Florida all have or are validating rules for a longer withdrawal time than Kentucky’s.

Clenbuterol is a beta-2 agonist drug most commonly prescribed as a bronchodilator for horses dealing with breathing issues. As a beta-2 agonist however, it also has the side effect of repartitioning — converting slow-twitch muscle fibers to fast-twitch muscle fibers, which has a similar result to an anabolic steroid.

Currently, Kentucky regulations state clenbuterol may not be given closer than 14 days pre-race. Howard suggested pushing the timeframe back to 21 days pre-race and requiring blood and urine tests after a reported administration before the horse could return to the entry box.

But Standardbred representatives at the meeting, which was held by video conference, raised objections. Because harness horses race so frequently, they claim the 14-day timeline already makes it difficult for veterinarians to prescribe the drug to Standardbreds. Widening the gap further will exacerbate the problem.

“People will refuse appropriate treatment of their horses because of the long withdrawal period,” said council member Dr. Andy Roberts, referring to Standardbred horsemen. “It is not abused in the Standardbred sport to speak of. We have a four-day withdrawal period in the state of Ohio and you don’t see horses shipping in from Ohio and just knocking people’s heads in. It’s really not an issue.

“I think the discussion on this drug has long been a case of people feeling like they’re getting beat by somebody else when they’re using this drug and I don’t think there’s any scientific fact that details that. As a matter of fact, the repartitioning effect, when you take the drug away, is very quickly reversed.”

Howard pointed out his intention by suggesting a longer withdrawal time was not to remove veterinarians’ ability to treat horses, only to encourage responsible use.

Dr. Naveed Chowhan, chair of the EDRC, questioned whether the committee could recommend separate regulation for the breeds to the commission. Council member Dr. Jim Morehead indicated he thought this was a dangerous precedent to set.

The matter has been tabled for now.

Also at Friday’s meeting, the council heard a presentation from ReCellerate, the makers of Equiflow aerosol mist. Equiflow is a non-drug biologic which is supposed to help repair damage from severe incidents of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) and reduce incidents of bleeding without the use of Lasix. The substance, which is administered as an inhalant, is concentrated protein serum harvested from stem cell collection from donor horses.

ReCellerate representatives sought to get permission from the EDRC and KHRC to allow veterinarians to prescribe the substance to active racehorses in controlled conditions to get a better sense of its efficacy. The product is in the process of getting approval as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); use of any non-FDA approved substance in a competing horse is required by rule to be approved by the commission.

Council members were interested in Equiflow’s initally-promising results, but some voiced concerns about the challenges of getting a biologic product approved by the FDA as a drug, since it’s derived from different donor horses at different times in different collections. Recellerate representatives assured the council that along with safety and efficacy, uniformity was part of the FDA’s rubric for approval.

The council also heard an update on plans for Kentucky to participate in a multi-state study on Lasix use as the state has begun its first year of a partial raceday Lasix phaseout. Initial study plans are in the works to collect video scopes on horses running with raceday and non-raceday Lasix, as well as blood samples to look for inflammatory biomarkers that could be related to EIPH incidents. Drs. Will Farmer, equine medical director for Churchill Downs Inc. and Stuart Brown, equine safety director for Keeneland, indicated the study plans are not yet ready for submission to the EDRC as part of a funding request, as organizers are still working out what the cost would be to each participating entity. The current study design would compare scopes and samples from Maryland, Kentucky, California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.





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