November 2015: First steps towards ketoprofen ban taken in Tamil Nadu, India

Animal Husbandry department, Tamil Nadu state withdrew all government supplies of ketoprofen from veterinary dispensaries from three districts in September. This step will be extended to the whole state for future supplies. Immediate instructions were issued by the Director, Animal Husbandry Department to strictly stop all use of ketoprofen and return existing stocks to headquarters from the three districts that still hold significant vulture populations. Ketoprofen has been shown to be lethal to Gyps vultures and its removal from veterinary practice is a SAVE priority.

Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) workers of NGO and SAVE Associate ‘Arulagam’ in Tamil Nadu voiced its concerns over the use of ketoprofen in Government dispensaries, when it started noticing the same being supplied by the Animal husbandry department and used in place of the banned diclofenac, in June 2015.

This was brought to the notice of the state department of animal husbandry, together with supplying photocopies of the key ketoprofen toxicity references from the SAVE website. The same set of documents (including a Tamil Nadu version of the SAVE Blueprint) was then supplied to the Animal Husbandry Dept, Drug Controller’s office, Family Welfare, Forest Department, District administration and the Veterinary University. All department heads for these were met in person and hand delivered the documents with some dialogue on the urgency to eradicate the ‘menace of diclofenac and ketoprofen’. Emphasis was placed on the three Tamil Nadu districts where vultures still occur in small numbers and meetings with state Secretary of Animal Husbandry and Director were received positively. An earlier ‘Vets for Vultures’ meeting at the veterinary college had apparently helped to prepare the ground on this.

The state Animal Husbandry Director, recently issued a letter to all veterinary doctors to stop use of diclofenac stating that they would face departmental action should they continue do so. As a follow up to the Vulture Awareness day and the media coverage of the events in late July, Arulagam sent written requests to the Secretary and the Director of Animal Husbandry Department to go further and ban the drug ketoprofen.

A key letter (Roc.No55226H1/15-2, dated 21 Sep 2015) was then issued stipulating that all Tamil Nadu Government funded supply of the drug (ketoprofen) to the veterinarians will cease.

This step has also been communicated from Tamil Nadu officials to central Govt in Delhi. Other VSZ initiatives were given the details of this in October at the VSZ review meeting in Lucknow and it is hoped this initiative can now be repeated elsewhere to build pressure at a central level for ketoprofen, as well as for another known toxic drug, aceclofenac, so that state funded supplies can be stopped ahead of any wider legislation. Special thanks go to Tamil Nadu Government, Secretary & Director, Animal Husbandry Department in particular for taking this important initial step.

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