Colorado to review EMS ketamine administration process
The state department grants waivers to first responders to use ketamine to treat extreme agitation in a non-hospital setting
The Denver Post
Colorado’s health department on Saturday said it plans to review the state’s ketamine waiver program — an announcement that comes nearly one year to the day that Aurora paramedics used the strong sedative on Elijah McClain.
The committee will be charged with examining the safety of ketamine administration in EMS settings, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a news release.
“Our agency will work with medical experts to study the use of ketamine in the field — as well as the state’s oversight mechanisms — and produce a public report,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the state’s top public health official, said in a statement. “Patient safety and program transparency are top priorities.”
The review committee, overseen by the public health department’s chief medical officer, will comprise EMS providers, pharmacists, emergency room doctors, anesthesiologist and others, the news release said. The review is expected to last a minimum of 12 weeks.
The state department grants waivers to first responders to use ketamine to treat extreme agitation in a non-hospital setting. About 90 fire departments and emergency medical service agencies in the state have such waivers.
In the past three years, it has been used 902 times for excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation, the health department said.
Last month, the department reopened its investigation into the use of ketamine on McClain after his case became a rallying cry for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis this summer. The state previously found no reason to revoke the waiver granted to Aurora Fire Rescue, who administered the drug last year.
Saturday’s announcement comes nearly a year after Aurora police stopped 23-year-old McClain after receiving a call about a suspicious person. Officers violently arrested him before paramedics injected him with ketamine to sedate him. McClain, a massage therapist, suffered cardiac arrest during the ambulance ride to a hospital and died after being declared brain-dead six days later.
The Adams County coroner could not determine the cause or manner of his death, saying the ketamine level in his blood was at a therapeutic level but that an unexpected adverse reaction to the drug couldn’t be ruled out. McClain’s family and their attorney immediately questioned its usage.
State guidelines say ketamine “has been shown to be effective for the treatment of excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation. However, it is also associated with a significant potential for complications and may lead to the need for intubation and admission to the Intensive Care Unit.”
In addition to the state’s ketamine review, McClain’s death is being investigated at the local, state and federal levels.
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