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Drug License Confusion Has Vets Scared to Use Ketamine

A week after the government issued an order allowing veterinarians to use the narcotic ketamine as an anesthetic during animal surgery, vets' representatives say they are still not using the controlled substance, fearing prosecution from the federal anti-drug agency.

Last week the Health Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry issued a joint order allowing the drug to be used as a narcotic and a controlled substance permissible in veterinary practice.

But vets said it might take months or years to resolve the issue. "The order does not close the issue once and forever," said Sergei Mendosa, president of the Veterinary Surgical Association.

In December prosecutors opened six criminal cases against vets and owners of animal clinics for illegal possession and use of ketamine, after Moscow federal anti-drug agents raided a number of the city's vet clinics and confiscated the drug.

The issue sparked several protests from vets and animal rights groups. With no other affordable anesthetic, city vets have stopped performing operations.

Ketamine, a powerful anesthetic generally used by only a small minority of drug addicts, has been banned in Russia since 1998 when the Agriculture Ministry neglected to include it on its list of approved veterinary drugs.

But while the Health Ministry grants licenses for the use of narcotics in human medicine, it is not clear which agency should be licensing to veterinary clinics, Mendosa said.

Ivan Rozhdestvensky, deputy head of the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary department, told reporters that the health authorities should be tasked with granting licenses to vets as well.

Neither Rozhdestvensky nor a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry could be reached for comment Monday.

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