Hennepin Healthcare suspends clinical trial of ketamine

A controversy following allegations that Hennepin Healthcare enrolled patients in a clinical trial of the powerful sedative Ketamine without their knowledge has forced the hospital to suspend the program and review its procedures, officials said.

The study began last August with a goal of determining which of the drugs already in use were most effective in treating agitation, and requires no prior consent from patients. Ultimately, those enrolled can only opt out once everything is said and done.

Officials say they're aware of the backlash to the program, and are working to provide transparency and better communication in the future as their procedures are reviewed.

 "We are both very sensitive and responsive to the people of color in our community because of their mistrust," said Hennepin Healthcare Chief Medical Director William Heegard. "[These] concerns have a long and unfortunate history when it comes to medicine and research."

The announcement came in the wake of a draft report by the Office of Police Misconduct Review that claimed in multiple instances the use of ketamine on a patient at the request of MPD officers caused heart or breathing failure, with some people needing to be revived or intubated as a result.

Paramedics' use of the sedative on agitated people during emergency calls is already the subject of an independent investigation commissioned by the City of Minneapolis, though Heegard defended the practice Tuesday by noting that ketamine use is a longstanding tool used by EMS in critical situations. Without it, he claims, some patients might die.

"Better outcomes have been and can be achieved if they are provided with sedation even before they get to the hospital," he said. "This is the standard of care today and in other communities throughout the county."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.