WHO recommends not restricting ketamine

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The World Health Organization Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has recommended that ketamine not be placed under international control.

China initially 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 recommended to the commission during a March 2015 meeting that ketamine be placed under schedule IV, the least restrictive category. The commission deferred action and asked for additional information from the WHO.

In September 2015, the WHO asked U.N. member states to complete a questionnaire on ketamine and other drugs in preparation for a November meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. The Food and Drug Administration requested public comments and received more than 1,600, all opposing restriction of ketamine, before completing the questionnaire. The AVMA and many members were among the commenters.

According to a WHO statement, the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence “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 Commission on Narcotic Drugs meets again in March. Ketamine currently is a schedule III drug in the United States, and it is uncertain whether international scheduling would impact the U.S. classification.  

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