By: 15 May 2015
Restricting global access to ketamine will further limit access to safe surgery and anaesthesia in developing countries

The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) has written to members of the UK Government to urge them to prevent further international restrictions on the use of the drug ketamine.

In letters to the UK Government, including to individuals – such as Professor Dame Sally Davis, Chief Medical Officer; the Rt Hon Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development – and ministers from both coalition parties as well as the opposition spokesperson, AAGBI President, Dr Andrew Hartle explained: “Whilst we recognise the concern that some countries have over the increasing abuse of ketamine as a recreational drug, in many low and middle income countries it may be the only anaesthetic available. For WHO Level 1 hospitals it is the only anaesthetic on the WHO Essential Medicines List. The continuing supply of ketamine to countries such as these is quite literally vital.”
The proposal, put forward by China, to place ketamine under stricter international controls will be considered at the next UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna later this month. These proposals have already been rejected by the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.
Should the proposal be accepted, it would have far reaching effects and, in many countries, set back efforts to improve access to safer surgery and anaesthesia.
According to a statement, the AAGBI believes passionately in improving global access to safer surgery and will work with partner organisations including the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA) to influence the decision at the meeting in March: “We are proud of our record supporting safer anaesthesia in low and middle income countries and are delighted that the World Health Organization Executive Board recently adopted a draft resolution to strengthen essential surgical care and anaesthesia that will be considered by the World Health Assembly in May.”
Source: AAGBI