China has recently proposed that the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs impose stricter international controls on ketamine at their upcoming meeting in Vienna this month (9-21 March 2015).
By making ketamine a Schedule I substance: parties are obliged to prohibit any medical use of ketamine, except by “persons directly under control of the government” and even then in a very restricted capacity. Non-governmental institutions and clinicians in remote areas will be unable to use ketamine if it is placed in Schedule I.
Adventure Medic readers will know of ketamine to be an essential tool in safe developing world anaesthesia, as well as of its resurgence in developed world prehospital care, emergency medicine and pain medicine. Furthermore, China’s proposals also run contrary to the advice of the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence and to the procedures of the UNCND itself.
The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) has written to a number of key figures involved in the proposal, and has published a template letter and two useful fact sheets covering the main issues. More information is also available on the IDHPD site. We would urge you to write to your elected representatives to underline the huge value of medical ketamine and to campaign against its restriction. Whatever your views on the prohibition of recreational drugs, this proposal will cost lives.