Intratracheal clenbuterol in the horse: Its pharmacological efficacy and analytical detection

J. D. Harkins, N. E. Robinson, W. E. Woods, A. F. Lehner, M. D. Smith, R. S. Gates, M. Fisher, T. Tobin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Clenbuterol, a β2 agonist/antagonist, is the only bronchodilator approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in horses. The Association of Racing Commissioners International classifies clenbuterol as a class 3 agent, and, as such, its identification in post-race samples may lead to sanctions. Anecdotal reports suggest that clenbuterol may have been administered by intratracheal (IT) injection to obtain beneficial effects and avoid post-race detection. The objectives of this study were (1) to measure the pharmacological efficacy of IT close of clenbuterol and (2) to determine the analytical findings in urine in the presence and absence of furosemide. When administered intratracheally (90 μg/horse) to horses suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), clenbuterol had effects that were not significantly different from those of saline. In parallel experiments using a behavior chamber, no significant effects of IT clenbuterol on heart rate or spontaneous locomotor activity were observed. Clenbuterol concentrations in the urine were also measured after IT dose in the presence and absence of furosemide. Four horses were administered i.v. furosemide (5 mg/kg), and four horses were administered saline (5 mL). Two hours later, all horses were administrated clenbuterol (IT, 90 μg), and the furosemide-treated horses received a second dose of furosemide (2.5 mg/kg, i.v.). Three hours after clenbuterol dose (1 h after hypothetical 'post-time'), the mean specific gravity of urine samples from furosemide-treated horses was 1.024, well above the 1.010 concentration at which furosemide is considered to interfere with drug detection. There was no interference by furosemide with 'enhanced' ELISA screening of clenbuterol equivalents in extracted and concentrated samples. Simfiarly, furosemide had no effect on mass spectral identification or quantification of clenbuterol in these samples. These results suggest that the IT dose of clenbuterol (90 μg) is, in pharmacological terms, indistinguishable from the dose of saline, and that, using extracted samples, clenbuterol dose is readily detectable at 3 h after dosing. Furthermore, concomitant dose of furosemide does not interfere with detection or confirmation of clenbuterol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-260
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • General Veterinary


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