A ‘poppers’ action group is encouraging gay and bisexual men to make submissions to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ahead of its decision on whether or not to ban alkyl nitrites.

In November last year the TGA postponed its decision on whether to ban alkyl nitrites – colloquially known as poppers – and reclassify them into the same category as marijuana and heroin until early 2019.

In a statement, the TGA cited the need to further assess approaches to access and the risks associated with alkyl nitrites as the reason for the extension.

“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.

“Interested individuals and organisations will be invited to provide submissions in writing by January 15, 2019.”

In response, the newly-formed Nitrite Action Group, a mix of researchers, clinicians, and community health activists, have created a messaging guide to help gay and bisexual men make their submissions count.

By law, the TGA is required to consider six issues when making decisions about the scheduling of substances. These include: the risks and benefits of use, the purposes and extent of use, the toxicity of the substance and its dosage, formulation, labelling, packaging and presentation, its potential for abuse, and any impact on public health.

The guide encourages submissions to address all six issues, and for the writer to include their own personal experiences.

The guide has been drafted by community health activists Daniel Reeders and Paul Kidd, with clinical review by sexual health physician Dr Vincent Cornelisse.

Kidd said the guide uses plain language without shying away from addressing the technical issues involved.

“LGBTIQ communities have a track record of talking to government in language they understand, and it’s important to continue doing that that here,” he said.

“Under the law, the purposes and benefits of poppers are relevant to the decision, so we’re encouraging people to share their own experience in a written submission.

“Even a couple of paragraphs can help, and submissions can be anonymous.”

In its written submission to the TGA, the group presented evidence highlight the prevalence of poppers use, with studies showing that 34 – 40 per cent of gay and bisexual men used poppers in the last six months.

Poppers have been used for over 40 years, and a review of the medical literature showed only a handful of deaths and a very low rate of adverse events over that time period.

The TGA will hold public consultation forums with key stakeholders including members of the public, LGBTIQ community organisations, clinical experts, and public health researchers in Sydney (31 Jan 2019) and Melbourne (7 Feb 2019).

The closing date for written submissions is 15 January 2019.

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