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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Statement from the National HBPA on Dr. Larry Bramlage's Lasix Comments

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association thinks it important to respond to remarks made by Dr. Larry Bramlage during his acceptance speech after receiving an award at the Thoroughbred Club of America’s 83rd Testimonial Dinner. Dr. Bramlage is a superb veterinarian and well deserving of recognition. We believe he also cares deeply for the horse and the industry. However, we do take strong exception to comments made by Dr. Bramlage. In his speech, Dr. Bramlage calls for banning race day administration of furosemide (Lasix), the diuretic proven to reduce Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH or “bleeding”).

Dr. Bramlage fully appreciates the fact that Lasix benefits the racehorse: “Let there be no doubt about what I am saying. I believe furosemide is valuable to the horse when racing.” We agree with his position because conclusive medical science exists on the topic and shows the use of Lasix eliminates bleeding in some horses and reduces the severity of bleeding in others.

However, Dr. Bramlage trots out the tired argument of The Jockey Club, of which he is a member, that Lasix must be eliminated because the “general public can’t understand it and the continual drumbeat of journalists, most of whom truly have no idea of what they are talking about, will become a death knell if we don’t stop it.” He further says, “It is not the drug that is bad, it is the public argument that plays out in the press that hurts us the most.”

Dr. Bramlage says the public “can’t discriminate between furosemide and cocaine…”  We are confident it can. If The Jockey Club invested the time, money and effort spent to date on politicizing the use of furosemide into a campaign of education and enlightenment, we believe the public and the limited number of full-time racing journalists would have a far different perception of Lasix use.

Credible efforts by the collective voices of this industry to tell the truth would eliminate the confusion about which Dr. Bramlage complains. All responsible participants in horse racing and breeding should recognize that sacrificing good science on the altar of political pandering and public misperception is bad policy – for the industry and for the horse.

Rather than working to educate the public and the media, The Jockey Club and, unfortunately, Dr. Bramlage have chosen to give up and not work to correct public misperceptions that ignore science. The impact of doing this is clear: the losers will be the racehorse and those who own them. Dr. Bramlage acknowledges this in his remarks, making it clear that to forbid the use of race day Lasix will “be terminal to some horses’ careers ...”

The National HBPA in its Mission Statement and everyday efforts encourages the highest standards of horsemanship to continuously improve the care, health and safety of the horse, and to support the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of nationwide uniform rules that promote safety and integrity in racing. Our mission is incompatible with accepting anything less for our horses.

Dr. Bramlage titled his speech, “I did the best I could!” hoping that when in Heaven he could tell his boyhood pet horse, Buckshot, just that. We sincerely believe Dr. Bramlage has done that as a practicing veterinarian. But if we are complicit in allowing good science to be unseated by public relations pandering, and if racehorses become the casualty of organizations jockeying for political position, none of us could meet any of our horses in Heaven and make the same claim to them.

Mrs. Robin Richards
President & Chairman

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