Availability of Ketamine – WHO Position

  • Issue 60

Julian Gore-Booth | CEO, World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists

Editor note: We are pleased to insert in this issue the good news about the WHO position regarding the availability of ketamine all over the world. WFSA and the ESA officers did tremendous efforts to keep ketamine available in every single country and hospital and to offer WHO the necessary data in order to accept the use of this anesthetic drug as part of our daily routine practice.

Dear WFSA Advisory,

I am delighted to be able to report that further to a sustained WFSA advocacy campaign, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has recommended that ketamine not be placed under international control.

You can read more here:

and you can access more information and the full report from the ECDD meeting on our advocacy page here:

The WFSA is of course delighted by this decision which contributes to improved patient care and access to safe anaesthesia around the world – this was a fantastic federated effort (and one that we are sure to need to repeat in the future).

Thank you all.

Best wishes,

Mr Julian Gore-Booth
Chief Executive Officer
World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists



Aim: To support and promote a focus on the availability, safety and quality of anaesthesiology

Objective 1: To encourage national and global decision making that promotes the availability of safe and high quality anaesthesia and effective pain relief

Objective 2: To promote anaesthesiology and surgery as an essential element of global health – to address the crises of unsafe surgery and access to surgical care

As the only global organisation of anaesthesiologists, with strong links to surgical organisations, official liaison with the WHO and consultative status with UN-ECOSOC, the WFSA is well placed to influence others and has been actively promoting patient safety since its founding in 1955.

The programme is closely allied with the Safety & Quality Programme. It will guide and encourage member societies in single and joint actions that support our objectives and it welcomes suggestions from members around possible calls for action / campaigns that a Federated approach would strengthen. Through the provision of tools, co-ordination of collective action and direct approaches to decision makers and influencers the WFSA seeks to amplify the voice of anaesthesiologists and convey the importance of this branch of medicine around the world.


Ongoing and Recent Actions

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

When the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) were set in the year 2000 the priority areas of anaesthesia and surgery were not mentioned specifically in MDG 6 which seeks to “Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases”. Since 2000 there has been noteable success in tackling child mortality, maternal health and specific diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, however the neglect of surgical care has led to the epidemic that we have today with 2 billion people unable to access the safe anaesthesia and surgery that could treat over 11% of the global burden of disease.

In a post 2015 world the global health agenda will be heavily influenced by the Sustainable Development Goals. In collaboration with other organisations the WFSA is campaigning hard to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and that universal access to safe surgery and anaesthesia are highlighted in SDG 3 “Ensure Healthy Lives….”.

You can find out more about the SDGs here.

You can download Health Priorities Post 2015 a paper written by members of WFSA and Lifebox outlining why surgical care must be given priority on the post 2015 health agenda.