Australian racing jurisdictions may reconsider a ban on a substance which a new study shows can assist thoroughbred welfare.
A drug banned in Australian horse racing has been found to significantly reduce the risk of bleeding into the lungs of thoroughbreds during racing.
A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the Universities of Melbourne, Colorado State and Pretoria is the first to draw a definitive link between use of the medication furosemide (also known as frusemide, Lasix or Salix) and the effective treatment of exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH).
EIPH is a very common disorder in which racehorses bleed into the lungs while racing. The disorder affects up to 75 per cent of thoroughbreds around the world and has a detrimental effect on the performance of affected horses. Within the US, $35 million is spent annually on use of furosemide to treat the condition.
However, furosemide is banned for use on race day by most countries, including Australia. Only the US, some South American countries, including Brazil, and some tracks in Canada, allow the medication to be used on race day.
Professor Ken Hinchcliff, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne and co-author of the study with Professor Paul Morley, Colorado State University, and Professor Alan Guthrie, University of Pretoria in South Africa, says the study provides the most reliable information to guide the highly politicised debate over use of furosemide in horses.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), and resulted in wide interest in the racing community and international press coverage.
The work involved 167 thoroughbred racehorses performing under typical racing conditions in South Africa in November 2007. Each horse raced twice in race meetings dedicated to the study, once after receiving furosemide before the race and once after receiving a placebo.
The horses that received the placebo were three to 11 times more likely to have EIPH as they were after administration of furosemide. In addition, about two-thirds of the horses that had EIPH after administration of the placebo had a reduction in EIPH severity when treated with furosemide.
The study authors say the results could cause some racing jurisdictions to reconsider their ban on the use of furosemide.
“It is likely that racing jurisdictions will reconsider, in one way or another, their position on the use of furosemide,” they say. “However, the decision to allow or disallow the use is based on the balance of a number of factors, and resolution of this complex situation will take some time. We are not advocating a particular position regarding the use of furosemide in race-horses.
“The challenge will now be for countries such as Australia, England, Hong Kong and South Africa that do not currently permit race day use of furosemide, to balance the animal welfare aspect of being able to prevent or reduce the condition against the imperatives for drug-free racing. Additionally, instituting race day administration of furosemide would be a significant added expense to racing.
“We believe our work is unique among studies of drug efficacy in racehorses, being similar to testing for treatment in human medicine. The drug was tested under conditions of racing and this rigorous approach to study design resulted in a very clear result.
“We know that furosemide is associated with improved performance, and that exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH) markedly affects race performance. But we didn’t know the answer to the third – and most important – leg of the trifecta: Whether furosemide is effective in treating EIPH. We now know,” says Professor Hinchcliff.
By NERISSA HANNINK | University of Melbourne Voice | Story URL
NOTE: Furosemide (INN) or frusemide (former BAN) is a loop diuretic used in the treatment of congestive heart failure and edema. It is most commonly marketed by Sanofi-Aventis under the brand name Lasix. It has also been used to prevent Thoroughbred and Standardbred race horses from bleeding through the nose during races.
Along with some other diuretics, furosemide is also included on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned drug list due to its alleged use as a masking agent for other drugs.
The diuretic-effects are put to use most commonly in horses to prevent “bleeding” during a race. Sometime in the early 1970s, furosemide’s ability to prevent, or at least greatly reduce, the incidence of “bleeding” (EIPH) by horses during races was discovered accidentally.
Pursuant to the racing rules of most states, horses that bleed from the nostrils three times are permanently barred from racing (for their own protection). Clinical trials followed, and by decade’s end, racing commissions in some states began legalizing its use on race horses.
On September 1, 1995, New York became the last state in the United States to approve such use, after years of refusing to consider doing so. Some states allow its use for all racehorses; some allow it only for confirmed “bleeders.”
However, its use for this purpose is still prohibited in many other countries, and veterinarians dispute its use for this problem.
Furosemide is detectible in urine 36-72 hours following injection. Its use is prohibited by most equestrian organizations.
Some of the brand names under which furosemide are:
Aisemide, Apo-Furosemide, Beronald, Desdemin, Discoid, Diural, Diurapid, Dryptal, Durafurid, Errolon, Eutensin, Frusetic, Frusid, Fulsix, Fuluvamide, Furesis, Furix, Furo-Puren, Furosedon, Hydro-rapid, Impugan, Katlex, Lasilix, Lasix, Lodix, Lowpston, Macasirool, Mirfat, Nicorol, Odemase, Oedemex, Profemin, Rosemide, Rusyde, Salix, Trofurit, Uremide, Urex, Frudix, Fusid.frusone.
~ Tuesday’s Horse