Drugs tested by the Drug Standards Agency (DSA) for Xanaketan and KrokaDilapid have been linked to a total of 13 deaths in the UK, including at least five deaths among children, an inquest has heard.
Inspector John McCue said there were no known deaths linked to the drug at the time it was introduced in the 1980s.
However, he said the “number of deaths in recent years” has increased, with 12 fatalities reported since the drug was introduced to the UK in March 2015.
The inquest, at Westminster Coroner’s Court, heard that drugs tested for at least 13 deaths among people aged between five and 74 in the past decade have been found to contain the drug.
All but two of those deaths involved children.
Two of those who died were aged five and six, while one of the other two was aged 11.
The first drug tested by DSA in 2015 was Oxycontin, which was found to be a strong enough metabolite of ketamine, a sedative and hallucinogen.
Dilpid, the main metabolite, was found in four deaths, while Oxycontin and ketamine were found in at least three.
The drugs tested were benzodiazepines and phenothiazines, the inquest heard.
Both drugs are classified as Class B drugs, with the maximum penalty for misuse of the drugs is a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
The coroner heard that some of the deaths were linked to Xanax, while others involved the ketamine metabolite.
Krokoda, the second drug tested in 2015, was linked to 12 deaths and was found at levels of ketaminers that exceeded the legal limit of 50mg.
The DSA also found a second ketamine drug in the case of a 16-year-old boy who died at St Thomas’ Hospital in April 2017, aged 13.
In the inquest, the coroner heard there had been a “further increase in deaths” of children in recent months.
“The evidence demonstrates that this is a significant public health issue,” he said.
“As a result of this increase in fatalities and the public health implications of the drug, we are taking a number of actions to help protect the public.”
Mr McCue told the inquest: “We recognise the role that the DSA plays in the fight against drug misuse and I am confident that we will be able to take action together with the DSC.”