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Mid-Atlantic Region Mandates Bisphosphonates Ban


Alan Foreman

An “immediate and strict prohibition” on the use of bisphosphonates on all horses under the age of four has been adopted by horsemens’ organizations, gaming commissions and racetracks up and down the Eastern seaboard in the Mid-Atlantic region. The decision was made at the annual Mid-Atlantic Regulatory and Stakeholders meeting held at Delaware Park Mar. 21, 2019. The action follows a recommendation from the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors on Mar. 7, 2019, urging a regional and national ban.

The mandate reads: “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 four, 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 four 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 National HBPA participated in the Mid-Atlantic meeting and voted to support the directive. It has issued its formal support and will advise its affiliates to join with their Mid-Atlantic counterparts in a nationwide prohibition.

“The National HBPA and its affiliates are, and have always been, committed to the highest standards of equine health and welfare,” said NHBPA CEO Eric Hamelback. “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.”

Alan Foreman, the chairman and CEO of the THA and long-time coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic meetings, commented:

“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. While we recognize that there are scientific and testing challenges, it is indisputable 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. 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”, said J. Michael Hopkins, Executive Director of the Maryland Racing Commission and Chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

On Mar. 25, America’s three leading auction houses, Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton and OBS, issued a joint declaration that buyers of horses less than four years old will retain the right to have those horses tested for bisphosphonates and should a positive test result occur, the buyer may rescind the sale.

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