Essential medicines and health products

WHO endorses decisions of Expert Committee
on cannabis and other substances

On 12-16 November 2018 the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) met in Geneva to conclude its review of cannabis and cannabis related substances. This was the first time that the ECDD carried out a full review of these substances since the International Drug Control Conventions were established in 1961 and 1971. Other substances under review were fentanyl derivatives, tramadol and pregabalin.

The recommendations from the ECDD meeting are now endorsed by WHO and have been forwarded to the UN Secretary General. They will be considered by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March.

Those recommendations include:
Cannabis-related substances: The Committee recognized the public health harms presented by these substances, as well as their potential for therapeutic and scientific use. As a result, the Committee recommended a more rational system of international control surrounding cannabis and cannabis-related substances that would prevent drug-related harms whilst ensuring that cannabis-derived pharmaceutical preparations are available for medical use.

New Psychoactive Substances: The Committee recommended placing several new psychoactive substances under international control. These include four fentanyl analogues that have contributed to opioid overdose deaths around the world, and four synthetic cannabinoids.

Medicines: The Committee recommended that tramadol should not be internationally controlled at this time due to the lack of alternative analgesics for the treatment of moderate to severe pain in many low to middle income countries, and in crisis situations. in addition, the ECDD recommended not to schedule pregabalin at this time. Both substances should remain under surveillance to monitor the harms that they present to public health.

Related to this story:
WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence meets to review cannabis (ECDD)