Ketamine is an essential medicine and should not be placed under international scheduling
The Worldwide Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) is concerned that access to ketamine at risk through lobbying by some countries to have it put under international scheduling.
Proposals for international control stem from the widespread misconception that ketamine is merely a 'recreational drug.' This is inaccurate and devalues the huge contribution that it makes to human and animal health.
Ketamine is a remarkably safe anaesthetic which has been used worldwide for more than 50 years. It does not depress respiration or the circulation. It can be used without oxygen, ventilators and electricity supply and support systems required for other anaesthetics. These characteristics make it the only anaesthetic suitable for both medical and veterinary use in lower and middle income countries.
Ketamine has particular value 'in the field' - for trauma, traffic and sporting injuries, in natural disasters and in zones of conflict - indeed in any situation with limited facilities. Additionally, it is the most common and often only product used for sterilization initiatives. It is instrumental in feral dog/cat population and is critical for the control of zoonotic diseases, such as Rabies.
Taking these factors together, it is clear that ketamine is an essential medicine.
In November 2015, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) recommended that ketamine should not be placed under international control, stating that its abuse does not cause a global public health threat and that control would limit access for those who use it as a life-saving anaesthetic. Despite intense lobbying from China, this view was confirmed at a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2016, a decision helped by strong support for this view from the worldwide medical and veterinary communities. But China has made clear its position that ketamine should fall under international schedule and its disappointment with the ECDD ruling. It now plans to defer the issue to a later meeting.
This means that the threat is not over and we must continue to campaign to provide a global perspective on ketamine's importance in veterinary medicine and to unite the voices of those who support our view. This is a battle our patients can't afford us to lose.
Please help us to secure the future of ketamine by supporting our campaign. Our petition already has more than 4,500 signatures. Please spread the word and let's make our collective voice even louder!
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