WHO’s Response to International Drug Control Treaties


I should like to review briefly the activities undertaken by WHO since I last reported to you in Philadelphia June 1979:

Scheduling Activities

WHO’s recommendations to the Secretary-General of the UN regarding the control status of eight substances were reviewed by the 6th Special Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in February 1980 in Vienna. Tilidine and Sufentanil were placed in schedule I of the 1961 Convention while Dextropropoxyphene was placed in schedule II of the same Convention.

The Commission agreed with the recommendations of WHO that Phencyclidine continue to be controlled under schedule II of the 1971 Convention as it is needed in veterinary practices.

It was also decided that three analogues of PCP (TEP, PHP or PCPY and PCE) be controlled under schedule I and Mecloqualone under schedule II of the 1971 Convention.

In September 1980, WHO plans to review the status of a group of 9 substances (anorectics). These are:

Phenmetrazine and Amfepramone are already controlled under schedule II and IV respectively of the 1971 Convention.

Technical Cooperation With Developing Countries In The Implementation Of The International Drug Control Treaties

2.1 In the past, WHO has collaborated with a number of industrialized countries where data was made available to take scheduling decisions to control narcotic drugs under the earlier treaties. The 1971 Convention deals with psychotropic substances which are widely used in large doses for a long period of time and for ill-defined symptoms and disease entities. Many of these substances have been available on the market before the 1971 Convention was enforced in August 1976 or even formulated. Thus, data on the therapeutic usefulness of these substances and on their producing public health and social problems and the extent is needed. WHO is concerned and wishes to promote the active participation of its Member States, in particular the developing countries, in its programme on the implementation of the international drug control treaties.

2.2 Information on the needs of developing countries have been obtained through two WHO travelling seminars in the USSP. on the “Safe Use of Psychotropic and Narcotic Substances,” when participants from 35 countries were present as well as a large number of Soviet officials and international and non-governmental organizations.

In 1979, a WHO staff member visited four countries within its four regions (AFRO, SEARO, EURO and PAHO) for discussions with officials responsible for the implementation of the international drug control treaties, members of the health profession and scientific community as well as those responsible for the trade and industry of drugs with dependence liability. These four countries have already ratified the 1971 Convention. In connexion with these visits, three reports on the “National Response to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971,” by Finland (MNH/79.25), Thailand (MNH/79.36) and Madagascar (MNH/79.42), are available and a report on Argentina is in preparation.

2.3 Need for development of guidelines for the implementation of the international drug control treaties.

WHO has already identified a number of activities which require the development of guidelines to be considered by Member States, where needed. Some of these are:

1. Development of guidelines for carrying out research, registration and re-registration of psychotropic substances with dependence liability with special reference to drugs modifying driving.

2. Need to limit and/or reduce the number of psychotropic substances linked to a clear policy on the availability of defined psychotropic drugs for the control of major neuropsychiatric disorders.

3. Mechanisms involving members of the various health professions in decision making to schedule drugs and their subsequent prescription control.

4. Development of drug utilization and drug monitoring systems for early identification of harm produced by psychotropic drugs and to take remedial steps.

5. Development of WHO guidelines for exemption of preparations containing more than one controlled psychotropic substance from certain control measures under article 3 of the 1971 Convention. Since the 1971 Convention allows parties to use their discretion and grant exemption, a need has been felt for WHO guidelines to be considered by countries while granting exemptions.

The report of the Director-General of WHO, (EB65.21) proposing the development of these guidelines was discussed at the 65th Session of the Executive Board in January 1980, and endorsed in its Resolution EB65.R7. Similarly, while considering the above documents, the 6th Special Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs which met in Vienna in February 1980, also endorsed the development of guidelines. The 33rd World Health Assembly also endorsed this in a resolution WHA33/27 of 23 May 1980.

I have observed during the last four years that the CPDD is becoming more and more involved in the subject of drug abuse, going further away from laboratory investigations in the field.

I should, therefore, like to request the Committee to consider collaborating with WHO in the development of these guidelines, as deemed fit.

3. A WHO Expert Committee on the Implementation of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, will be held in Geneva to review methodology for assessing public health and social problems associated with drug abuse. The report of this Committee will be of assistance in identifying the harm caused by psychotropic substances, vis-a-vis their therapeutic benefit.

The Government of Finland has offered support to WHO in developing guidelines to assess the public health problems associated with the use of psychotropic substances.

WHO is planning to hold a Workshop in Finland in June 1981 in which 12 experts from developing countries will be invited to participate together with other resource persons. I would welcome a contribution from the CPDD to this meeting by deputing an expert.

Inayat Khan, Ph.D. Senior Medical Officer Division of Mental Health WHO Switzerland

Selections from the book: “Problems of Drug Dependence, 1980: Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Scientific Meeting, the Committee on Problems of Drug Dependence, Inc.” Louis S. Harris, Ph.D., ed. Comprehensive assemblage of ongoing research on drug abuse, addiction, and new compounds. National Institute on Drug Abuse Research Monograph 34, February 1981.