UPDATE 3/30/2016: The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs took no action to schedule ketamine during its meeting in March. That said, the AVMA and other international organizations need to remain vigilant in monitoring the situation, because there are UN members who would like to see ketamine scheduled internationally. We’ll keep our members updated.
AVMA officials have contacted the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs directly to impress upon it the importance of retaining veterinary access to ketamine in advance of a meeting that will address the matter this week in Austria.
In April 2015, we informed AVMA members of a proposal to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN CND) for international scheduling of ketamine hydrochloride, which is commonly used by veterinarians for immobilization, anesthesia, sedation and pain management of their animal patients. Then, in October, we asked you to submit your comments opposing changes to the scheduling, and you answered with countless examples of its critical importance to veterinarians. We used those comments to enhance our formal response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which in turn counseled the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) when it met in November. Based on this input and input from other WHO participating organizations, the ECDD concluded that “ketamine abuse does not pose a global public health threat, while controlling it could limit access to the only anaesthetic and pain killer available in large areas of the developing world.” The ECDD’s conclusion was transmitted to the UN CND, which meets this week in Vienna, Austria.
Although the WHO committee’s conclusions are consistent with AVMA’s position on ketamine scheduling, we nonetheless believed it essential to directly communicate our concerns to the UN CND through the U.S. representative on the committee.
Ketamine hydrochloride is currently a Schedule III substance in the United States, and strict regulations and safeguards are already in place to help prevent its illegal use. Therefore, the AVMA opposes any change in scheduling, either nationally or internationally, that could make this drug less accessible for veterinary use. The World Veterinary Association (WVA) agrees with this position, and has also advocated against any changes to ketamine scheduling. We will continue to advocate this position on behalf of our members and the profession until the final decision has been made by the UN CND.