Strict Medication Policies: How South America differs from its Northern counterparts

Further to the South American aim to continually improve and grow the continent’s thoroughbred racing industry to a global scale, animal welfare, including strict medication policies, have formed part of that process.

These medication policies ensure not only the welfare of the animal, but the health and longevity of the industry, while solidifying trust with international buyers that the stock they are purchasing is not hiding issue or injury that may otherwise be masked in jurisdictions with more lax policies.

The South American medication policies are enforced by OSAF (Organisational Sudamericana de Fomento del Sangre Pura De Carrera, or South American Organisation for the Promotion of Thoroughbred), an organisation that represents South America on the world stage and has governing organisations from each country as members.

To further enhance and promote best practice and welfare of all participants within the thoroughbred industry, South American countries are members of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA). All members of the Federation commit themselves to furthering their objectives and undertake to use their best endeavours wherever this is reasonably possible.

In South America, the use of the diuretic medication Lasix was mostly phased out in 2013 in countries with Part 1 racing (racing with international implications), which include Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. Prior to 2013, the use of race-day medication was already banned in Brazil for all black-type races and races for horses younger than 3.5 years.

Whilst there are some jurisdictions which permit the use of race-day medications for certain races (such as 4YO and above), it has been well documented that those fields are regularly smaller than those races where medications are prohibited.

The OSAF believes that the elimination of Lasix is in keeping with other top-class racing countries such as European jurisdictions and Australia, and is part of their overall goal to improve the industry.

In North America, the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (THA) recently spearheaded a collaborative effort to create a uniform medication and testing program to meet current industry needs and address fast-growing safety, welfare and integrity concerns. The result was the implementation of the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP) across the United States. Its four major components are:

  1. A Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule;
  2. Third-party administration of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide (Lasix);
  3. A multiple medication violation penalty system that flags and penalises repeat offenders of racing’s medication control rules; and
  4. A testing laboratory accreditation program with adherence to a stringent Code of Standards.

The use of Lasix is the principal drug that differentiates the US medication regime from other major racing jurisdictions. Though Lasix has been phased out in many states, its use still occurs in patches of the US.