Veterinarians push against restriction of ketamine

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The AVMA and many members have submitted comments emphasizing the importance of access to ketamine ahead of a review by a World Health Organization committee on the drug’s abuse liability and diversion.

Veterinarian holding a drug vialKetamine is currently a schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act in the United States but is not controlled under any international convention. It is uncertain whether international scheduling of ketamine would impact the U.S. classification.

China had proposed that the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs place ketamine under schedule I of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the most restrictive category. Following input from stakeholders, China subsequently proposed placing ketamine under schedule IV, the least restrictive category. The commission deferred action and asked for additional information from the WHO.

On Sept. 11, the WHO asked U.N. member states for input on ketamine and other drugs in preparation for a Nov. 16-20 meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. On Oct. 5, the Food and Drug Administration issued a request for public comments concerning “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use” of the drugs, with an Oct. 15 deadline.

While preparing its response regarding ketamine, the AVMA also asked members to respond, even creating a template letter. Despite the tight deadline, more than 130 members submitted comments to the FDA and copied the AVMA to provide guidance for the AVMA response.

The AVMA comments are available at Some key points are as follows:

  • Ketamine use is critical in veterinary medicine. Its availability to U.S. veterinarians must be protected for them to continue providing high-quality care to their patients.
  • Ketamine is a key component in veterinary anesthetic protocols worldwide, and any regulatory action that limits its availability to the veterinary profession would gravely impact animal health and welfare.
  • Strict regulations and safeguards are in place in the United States to help prevent the illegal use of ketamine. U.S. veterinarians use the drug in accordance with these regulations.

Related JAVMA content:

Veterinarians urge United Nations not to restrict ketamine (May 1, 2015)