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UF Vets to Study Potential Drug Misuse in Racehorses

May 17, 2019

The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing is the world's most famous horse racing championship that is conducted each spring in the United States. The three-race series begins with the Kentucky Derby followed by the Preakness and the Belmont. This year's thoroughbred racing series comes on the heels of a major announcement by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium. The organization is an accrediting body for horse racing testing facilities, including the University of Florida's Horse Racing Laboratory. To date, the organization has funded more than $2 million in drug testing aimed at developing methods for detecting of prohibited substances.

Local anesthetics are frequently used in equine medicine to help localize the source of pain in cases of equine lameness. Now, researchers at the University of Florida will be studying an extended release form of bupivacaine, which is a long-acting prescription medicine that is often used as a local anesthetic or numbing medication in horses. Racing investigators are working with liposomal formulations of bupivacaine to better understand how droplets of the formulation are gradually released over time and whether future formulations could be used unethically to mask pain from a horse's injury.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium has challenged University of Florida researchers to accomplish two goals for overseeing the racing of horses statewide in collaboration with the state's pari-mutuel wagering. First, UF Racing Laboratory will determine the minimal effective dose to block pain in a horse's foot as well as how long each dose lasts. Currently when misused, the nerve blocking agent may have the potential to last for several days and go undetected by existing lab tests. The second goal will focus on how a horse's body metabolizes and eliminates the pain medication.  The consortium seeks to advance programs that will benefit horse health as well as maintain the integrity of horseracing.

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