Recently I offered to conduct a trial for Equiwinner on their patches at no cost if they agreed to supply the patches free of charge. I offered to allow Equiwinner to specify what condition should be trialled, case criteria for selecting horses or ponies, access to anonymised pre-trial information to include or exclude cases and a copy of the results of the trial. I also agreed to allow Equiwinner to include specific instructions on how the patches should be used. I refused them direct access to trial participants. Unfortunately, this was not acceptable to Equiwinner.
Equiwinner claim to be able to treat a wide variety of conditions with very different aetiology (cause), including EIPH, tying-up, anhidrosis (non-sweating), headshaking, sweet-itch and thumps (SDF). They also claim it increases drinking and improves performance. It’s no secret that I am sceptical of these claims, and the explanation of how the patches work Is not consistent with my understanding of physiology.
As an alternative to a trial, we ran an online survey. Over 200 responses were received. We filtered out clearly false entries, incomplete entries and entries where the respondent had not used the patches as instructed by the manufacturer.
46% of respondents had used Equiwinner for a single indication (condition), whilst 54% had used them for more than one condition. 7% of respondents had used them for seven different conditions.
The graph above shows the % of respondents who saw improvement (yellow) versus those who saw no change or a worsening (red) for the different conditions Equiwinner claims to treat. There were slightly more respondents who perceived that Equiwinner improved drinking, repelled flies, Sweet Itch and EIPH than those who did not. However, there was essentially no difference in performance, thumps and anhidrosis and a very strong lack of perceived effect for headshaking (seasonal and non-seasonal).
The perception of improvements in EIPH, drinking, repelling flies and performance, in particular, are conditions that are difficult to quantify. In contrast, headshaking is a very clear behaviour and easier for owners to assess improvement or lack of it. i.e. they can be PRESENT one day and not.
In addition, with only a few exceptions, the ratings of significant improvement came from respondents who were using Equiwinner patches for three or more different conditions.
Many of the conditions Equiwinner claims to treat are variable over time, i.e. they can be one day and not the next, or the severity changes over time. They are also conditions which are rare and or can be difficult to quantify. The fact that most of the ratings are close to 50/50 strongly suggests a placebo effect. However, it is very clear that Equiwinner was not perceived to be of any value in treating headshaking. A 10-day treatment appears to cost around $159 or £130 (possibly more in UK). Given the complete absence of any controlled, peer-reviewed and published clinical trials in horses, I do not see any evidence yet that would persuade me to recommend this as a treatment option for any of the conditions listed.