The Drugs Technical Advisory Board of India has formally recommended national bans of two veterinary drugs known to be highly toxic to vultures. The statement was made by the Indian Health Ministry and Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO), and further reinforced at the Delhi High Court hearing this week.
Both drugs are painkillers, frequently used by vets to treat cattle across the region in place of diclofenac. This move follows many years of safety-testing, publications and lobbying by conservation organisations along with the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and other SAVE Partners.
SAVE chair Jemima Parry-Jones commented “This shows how long-term efforts are eventually being listened to, and as long as this is quickly followed by formal notification and legislation, as happened for diclofenac back in 2006, then it will be a further credit to the Indian Government in leading the way for the region.” She added: “The gazette notification of the bans should come as soon as possible so the use of these drugs in veterinary care becomes illegal.”
Peer-reviewed publications demonstrated the toxicity of ketoprofen to vultures back in 2010, but despite this there have been no veterinary bans on a national scale until 2021 when a decisive step was taken by the Bangladesh Government. Calls for banning aceclofenac in India formally began back in 2014, as this drug metabolises almost immediately into diclofenac once its inside the treated livestock, and is therefore equally lethal to vultures. Recent IVRI publications have further clarified that aceclofenac converts to toxic diclofenac in both cattle and water buffalo. These decisions are therefore long-awaited but very welcome, and hopefully will still come in time to save Asia’s vulture populations from further declines.
Abhishek Ghoshal from the Vulture PRogramme of BNHS said “This is probably the most significant step towards vulture conservation since the diclofenac ban of 2006. It’s a result of long term efforts from the Ministry (MoEFCC) and including state Governments especially Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam… and alongside with NGOs. Timely order notifications and on the ground implementation will now be pivotal.”
Kishor Rithe, Interim Director of BNHS added “If nimesulide can also be banned nationwide, since evidence for the toxicity to vultures is equally clear and being published by BNHS and IVRI, then the future of vultures really will look significantly brighter.”
Vibhu Prakash, vulture expert, recently retired from BNHS said “These bans can’t happen soon enough, although that includes nimesulide. Wild populations of four Critically Endangered vulture species have declined by up to 99.9%, and are not recovering in India due to this ongoing threat from cattle drugs which urgently needs such action.”
Minutes of the meeting are available here.
Also see the SAVE NSAIDs alert page on our website for further details and information regarding the toxicity and related publications.