The World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) Campaign for Ketamine

The World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) Campaign for Ketamine

  • Issue 63

Under the logo “ketamine is medicine” the WFSA started at the end of last year a campaign for preventing the inclusion of this drug in the list of so called psychotropic substances. Here are some excerpts from the WFSA toolkit addressed to all anesthesiologists over the world.

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) discussed the issue in December 2015 and will decide in March 2016 whether or not to ‘schedule’ ketamine under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem in April 2016 will also discuss the international classification of ketamine.

It is worthwhile to mention the fact that WFSA and ESA both participated in the advocacy last December in Geneva.

Scheduling the drug would have a catastrophic effect on safe medical care across the world, so we must work together to ensure this does not come to pass.

When a drug becomes scheduled, only government run hospitals may import ketamine, which means staff in many medical centres around the world will not be able to access the drug – particularly affecting low resource institutions in rural areas which are already the most in need.

The medical centres that are able to access ketamine will face their own problems as they must keep detailed records of how scheduled drugs are used. But it’s easy to keep records, right?

In a well-equipped hospital in a high income country, where ketamine is used relatively less often than other anaesthetic drugs, it is quite easy to keep records. In a makeshift hospital in a war zone, with constant streams of injured men, women and children with traumatised families, the constant threat of danger and access to the bare minimum of equipment, keeping exact records in not quite so simple.

International scheduling risks a chain of events that result in the manufacture and distribution of essential ketamine drying up.

Anaesthesiologists around the world are united in what they do and the impact they have on patients, families and communities. The WFSA invited all the professionals in our specialty to raise their voices and join the campaign against scheduling ketamine.

A significant step has been taken by the WHO Expert Committee on Drugs Dependence which advised not to schedule ketamine in the list of psychotropic substances.

The ESA Newsletter also joins this campaign by presenting the issue to our readers, together with a letter to editor sent to by one of our readers outside the continent. Ketamine is an important drug also in Europe and its use must be defended against any trial to restrict its daily use for anesthesia and sedation purposes.