By: Shane Anderson

The emergence of Ibuprofen as a problem drug in racing will be reviewed by the Racing Victoria (RV) Integrity Council when it meets on February 1.

RV Stewards will brief the council on recent cases which have shown a number of horses returning a positive urine sample to the drug.

These cases have shown that there is a very prolonged and unpredictable clearance of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in horses.

Ibuprofen is not registered for use in horses but may be prescribed by vets for off-label use under specific conditions. It has proven to be a useful medication in the treatment of tendon injuries.

However, Ibuprofen is a prohibited substance if detected on race day.

Trainer Clinton McDonald has raised concerns after his horse Rib Eye has tested positive to the drug on two occasions.

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board fined McDonald $1500 after the four-year-old returned a positive swab on August 26 prior to racing at Sandown.

A second positive has been returned from the horse’s winning performance at Terang on December 7.

Vet Dr Tim Roberts has also raised concerns about how long it takes for the drug to leave a horse’s system, suggesting that the industry should have a moratorium on horses that have been treated with Ibuprofen.

Dayle Brown, RV Executive General Manager – Integrity Services, will refer the matter to the RV Integrity Council for consideration after the recent incidents and the number of inconsistent detections of Ibuprofen in Victoria.

“We are sensitive to the difficulties currently being faced by owners and trainers of horses which have been administered Ibuprofen. However, Ibuprofen is a prohibited substance in accordance with the Rules of Racing,” Brown said.

“Racing Victoria’s Integrity Council will be fully informed of the situation and any potential management options at its next meeting on 1 February, 2016. The RV Board will then consider any proposed recommendations at its meeting on 11 February, 2016.”

Dr Brian Stewart, RV Head of Veterinary Services, believes that the drug is being cleared at slow and erratic rates due to large dosages.

“The horses that have shown the very prolonged and unpredictable clearances of Ibuprofen had been subjected to exceptionally high doses of Ibuprofen continuously over a period of months as part of tendon injury rehabilitation programs,” Stewart said.

“It appears that the parent drug has accumulated in the horses’ bodies and is being cleared from storage sites very slowly and erratically.

“The sensitivity of testing for Ibuprofen is the same as that applied to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Phenylbutazone and Racing Analytical Services Limited has confirmed that there has been no recent change to the sensitivity of testing.

“At this point in time, the best advice we can provide to trainers is that the only safe way to avoid contravening the Rules of Racing is to not administer Ibuprofen to horses at any time.

“If horses have been treated with Ibuprofen, trainers are encouraged to contact RV to arrange elective urine testing to assist in understanding the horse’s Ibuprofen status and to assist in decision-making on its return to racing.

“We will continue to assist trainers and owners as much as possible.”