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Pa. temporarily schedules vet tranquilizer xylazine as controlled substance

White House warns of 'emerging threat' of fentanyl and xylazine, a veterinary drug
White House warns of 'emerging threat' of fentanyl and xylazine, a veterinary drug 02:16

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania has temporarily scheduled the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine as a controlled substance. 

Acting Health Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen submitted notice to add xylazine, commonly known as "tranq," to the list of schedule III drugs. The action takes effect on June 3. 

Xylazine contributed to 90 overdose deaths in 2017, but in 2021, it contributed to 575 -- an increase of over 600% in just 5 years, the Pennsylvania Health Department said.

"This action will protect veterinarians and other legitimate users and manufacturers of xylazine, which is an important medication for animal sedation, while also creating penalties for people who add illicit xylazine to the drug supply that is harming people in our communities," Bogen said in a news release. "Our focus remains on developing strategies that help connect people with substance use disorder to treatment and other resources."   

The Health Department said its scheduling preserves the legitimate use of the drug by vets and farmers. 

Scheduling a drug requires manufacturers and distributors to verify that a practitioner, like a veterinarian, is licensed and that they are authorized to receive a controlled substance, the governor's office has said. It also allows for more checks in an ordering system and requires practitioners to take steps to minimize theft and diversion. 

The FDA says xylazine is not safe for humans to use. It may result in skin ulcers and abscesses that can lead to amputation. The U.S. has named a veterinary tranquilizer as an "emerging threat" when it's mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl.

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