Cabinet has approved the classification of ketamine as a Class C drug, Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said today.
The classification, which is to be approved by Parliament after being gazetted, means that there will be increased controls on storage of the drug and increased penalties for its importation, possession, manufacture, or supply for illicit purposes.
Ketamine can continue to be used as a prescription-only medicine by health professionals and veterinarians.
It is a short-acting hallucinogenic dissociative anaesthetic, commonly used by veterinarians and increasingly in human surgery and palliative care. It is not currently classified, but is listed as a prescription medicine in the Medicines Regulations.
Jim Anderton said the classification of ketamine had been recommended by the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs.
“This reflects their concern at the potential risk of harm associated with ketamine, which is considered to be of moderate risk.”
He said it would still be able to be used as a prescription-only medicine by veterinarians and doctors, but they would need to keep it in an “approved” locked metal or concrete cupboard or compartment.