WHO pushes for lifting of international control on ketamine
MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) has again recommended that ketamine, which is used as an anaesthetic and analgesic drug, should not be placed under international control.
The WHO issued the statement following the review of the latest evidence by the agency’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.
It was the fourth time since 2006 that WHO made such a recommendation.
In a statement posted on its website, WHO says that the Committee has 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 medical benefits of ketamine far outweigh potential harm from recreational use,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant-director general for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO. “Controlling ketamine internationally could limit access to essential and emergency surgery, which would constitute a public health crisis in countries where no affordable alternatives exist.”
Ketamine is an anaesthetic used in surgical and diagnostic procedures. It is often the only anaesthetic agent available in most developing countries and is also used for pain management.
In 1985, ketamine was placed on the WHO Essential Medicines List and was recently described as “for sedation of both children and adults … perhaps the most widely used agent in the world.”
In recent years, however, ketamine has also been used recreationally, which has prompted moves to control the substance under international law.
“We have found that placing substances under international control can often limit access to them for medical purposes,” said Kees De Joncheere, WHO Director for Essential Medicines and Health Products.
He cited morphine as a case in point.
“Even though it (morphine) is inexpensive and one of the best substances available for pain management, in most countries availability and use are limited due to excessive regulation,” he said. SFM
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