Kiwi psychiatrist cleared over party drug use
July 30, 2013

psychiatrist_horse_tranquilizerA Southland psychiatrist who injected depressed patients with the horse tranquiliser and party drug ketamine has been cleared by the health watchdog.

Ketamine is approved for use as an anaesthetic only but was given to 11 severely-depressed patients at Dunedin hospital in 2010 for off-label use as an anti-depressant.

A complaint was lodged that the specialist’s prescribing was for research purposes and was `experimental’, but in findings released on Tuesday, Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill ruled the use legitimate.

He criticised the psychiatrist for not keeping more thorough records but said the doctor had complied overall with practice guidelines, informing the patients and getting their consent.

The drug, known as special K in the party scene, has been shown to help ease depressive symptoms in mental health patients overseas who have not responded to other treatments.

The doctor prescribed injections over a five-month period.

The complaint was lodged not by the patients, but via a third party.

Mr Hill was critical of Southern DHB’s “hands off system of oversight”, and recommended all health boards police unusual off-label use of licensed medications better.