International Scheduling of Ketamine: Why the AVMA needs to be involved in international veterinary medicine

Ketmine_InjectionThanks to input from several concerned AVMA members, the AVMA, through its membership in two key international organizations, was able to add its voice to those opposing strict international regulation of ketamine — an important anesthetic drug used in both veterinary and human medicine — ahead of a recent United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN-CND) hearing. The Commission listened, and on March 13 it postponed a decision on international scheduling of ketamine to a future date to allow more information to be gathered.

The AVMA became involved in this issue when we learned from members about an impending U.N. hearing regarding the possible regulation of ketamine under Schedule I of the U.N. Convention on Psychotropic Substances Ketamine is already strictly regulated in the USA as a Schedule III narcotic. If it were to become internationally regulated as a Schedule 1 drug, it could mean that ketamine would no longer be available to US practitioners. That’s right— although it is widely used in anesthetic protocols for both small and large animals worldwide, it might no longer be available. Now, think of the various anesthetic protocols utilized in your veterinary practice for the range of patients you treat, and how the potential regulatory elimination of ketamine would impact your patients and practice.

Recognizing both the need for our members to have continued and appropriately regulated access to ketamine, and the global scope of this issue, we reached out to our international contacts. The AVMA is a member of the World Veterinary Association (WVA), which in turn interacts closely with other international organizations such as the World Medical Association (WMA). We immediately connected our concerned members with WVA President Dr. René Carlson, who also serves as AVMA director of international affairs. Dr. Carlson carried the AVMA’s concern to the WVA Policy Committee, which then invited the WMA to co-develop statements and press releases opposing any international scheduling that would negatively impact the availability of ketamine for legitimate human and veterinary medical use. The WVA and WMA statements were circulated widely in early March. Additionally, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), another organization in which the AVMA is a member, lent its support to the movement against the international regulation of ketamine.

The UN-CND hearing was held the week of March 9. Thanks to the efforts described here, the UN-CND ultimately postponed any decision on international scheduling of ketamine to a future date to allow more information to be gathered. During the debate, the U.S. delegate commented, “We support the decision…to postpone consideration on ketamine scheduling….. It’s not time for a vote on this matter, and we need more time to gather information…to ensure any scheduling would not hinder medical availability.”

We were pleased to have played a part this time in connecting AVMA members with international partners to ensure ketamine continues to be available for medical use under appropriate regulation. Working with our members and international colleagues, we will continue to monitor the UN-CND website and future meeting agendas so that we are prepared to address this issue when it next arises. These efforts exemplify why AVMA membership in key international veterinary organizations such as the WVA and WSAVA is vitally important. Our members’ voices — the U.S. veterinary profession’s voice — needs to be heard.

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