On 27 February, the UK Presidency, of the European Union acting on behalf of the 15 Member States, formally referred a new synthetic drug, N-Methyl-1-(1,3- benzodioxol 5-yl)-2-butanamine (MBDB) to the EMCDDA for risk assessment under Article 4 of the Joint Action on New Synthetic Drugs adopted on 16 June 1997.* The Presidency asked the Member States to assist the assessment process by reporting any recent inci- dences of, or other relevant infor- mation on, MBDB to the EMCDDA and the Europol Drugs Unit (EDU) by means of the exchange mechanism described in Article 3.
Although MBDB is not listed in Schedules 1 or 2 of t he 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, it is not a totally new synthetic drug. Over recent years, cases involving the drug have been reported in almost all Member States, making information collection easier than in situations in- volving a totally new substance.
In the context of Article 3 of the Joint Action, the EMCDDA and the EDU have agreed to submit a joint report,clargely focusing on MBDB to the Horizontal Drugs Group of the Council of the European Union on 20 May. The Presidency will then report the progress made to the European Council meeting in Cardiff, UK, from 15–16 June. The EDU will cover production and trafficking of MBDB and the EMCDDA its use and possible risks (both health and social). To this end, the EMCDDA has circulated a questionnaire to the National Focal Points requesting information on MBDB and is exa- mining other sources including the Internet, data from relevant organisations and current scientific literature.
At the same time, steps have been taken in prepara- tion for the risk-assessment procedure (Article 4). The EMCDDA's Scientific Committee, under whose auspices the assessment will be undertaken, has es- tablished a Steering Group to develop criteria, guidelines and procedures. The EMCDDA has also created an internal Task Force to prepare the special risk assessment meeting of the Scientific Committee, to be held later in 1998, which will be attended by experts from the Member States, the Commission, the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products and the EDU. MBDB presents a challenging first test of the Joint Action in practice.