The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has delayed its decision on whether or not to ban alkyl nitrites – a group of substances including the main ingredients in sex aid “poppers” – until early 2019.
In September, the TGA published its plans to move the alkyl nitrites to Schedule 9 of the Poisons Standard, reclassifying them in the same category as marijuana and heroin and potentially expose those caught selling, using or possessing poppers to criminal charges.
The authority opened its interim decision to public consultation before it made a decision on the ban by the end of this month, but the TGA will now extend the deadlines for submissions until January.
“Prior to making a final decision on possible amendments to the Poisons Standard schedule for alkyl nitrites, the TGA decision-maker … has requested that further public consultation be undertaken,” the statement read.
“There will not be a decision announced on alkyl nitrites on November 29, 2018.
“Interested individuals and organisations will be invited to provide submissions in writing by January 15, 2019.”
Instead of the decision, the TGA has said it will release a discussion paper on November 29 “to assess the possible impact of different approaches to access and safety controls on risks associated with alkyl nitrites.”
“These range from general (unrestricted) sale, through to access in pharmacies, pharmacist only access, prescription only access or prohibited substance status, and whether it is appropriate to apply different access controls to different members of the alkyl nitrite family of substances,” the authority said.
“While many people apparently use inhaled alkyl nitrite products without adverse effect, some serious health impacts have been reported in certain users from both inhalation and ingestion of alkyl nitrite containing products.
“There is some, incomplete evidence that particular members of the family of alkyl nitrite substances may be more toxic than others.”
The TGA has said it will hold more public meetings in Sydney and Melbourne at the end of January and early February, before making a decision on the popper ban.
“Details on how to register your interest in these meetings will also be provided on 29 November 2018,” the TGA said.
Community outrage over TGA’s plan to ban poppers
The TGA’s proposal to reclassify poppers has caused outrage among users in the LGBTIQ community, who have instead called for tighter regulation of the products in a similar way to sex aid Viagra.
In a joint submission responding to the TGA’s interim decision on the ban, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and the National LGBTI Health Alliance said the TGA’s interim decision “significantly overstates the toxicity of the substance and the potential for abuse” and is based “upon limited evidence of harm”.
Instead, the proposed ban “will cause far more significant harm through the criminalisation of marginalised populations than that caused by the use of alkyl nitrites,” the submission reads.
“Given the ubiquity of use within parts of the gay community, it is likely that demand for alkyl nitrites would continue and be met through unregulated supply or, in the alternative, chemical variations that have unknown harms,” the submission read.
A Change.org petition started by activist Steve Spencer called on the TGA to abandon the blanket ban and instead “regulate the substance for safe use” by receptive sexual partners.
“Poppers are not a drug of dependance or addiction and result in little harm,” Spencer wrote.
“The TGA has proven capable of regulating Viagra (a comparably dangerous substance) for the benefit of active partners.”