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International Rescheduling of Ketamine

November 13, 2015

Earlier this year the World Health Organization (WHO) received a proposal from China to more stringently regulate ketamine hydrochloride as a Schedule 1 drug under the international Psychotropic Convention. Schedule I, by definition, includes drugs claimed to create a serious risk to public health, whose therapeutic value is not currently acknowledged by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It includes synthetic psychedelics such as LSD in addition to natural psychedelics. Most Schedule I drugs are already illegal to possess or sell in most of the 183 nations, including Canada, belonging to the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The CVMA, in cooperation with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the World Veterinary Association (WVA) and the World Medical Association (WMA), advocated against this proposed change in order to prevent possible undue restrictions on availability of ketamine for veterinary use. As a result of those advocacy efforts, ketamine was not rescheduled at that time.

During the first week of October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a request for comments regarding the abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking and impact of scheduling changes on the availability for medical use of 10 drug substances – including ketamine. The comments will be considered as FDA prepares a response to the WHO since it appears the organization may be considering another proposed change to the international scheduling of drugs such as ketamine.

The AVMA is drafting a letter to the FDA outlining ketamine’s critical use in veterinary medicine and its importance in remaining available to U.S. veterinarians. The CVMA supports the AVMA’s stance on urging the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs not to restrict the availability of ketamine. Visit the AVMA website for more information.

In Canada, Ketamine is a Schedule I drug under the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This designation puts it in the same category as morphine, codeine and cocaine. While this requires documentation, security, and controls, veterinarians can still access the drug.

See a CVMA news posting from April 2015 for additional information.