SAVE welcomes India’s latest move towards banning of veterinary drug nimesulide

The Drugs Technical Advisory Board of India (DTABI) has formally recommended a national ban of the veterinary drug nimesulide, known to be highly toxic to vultures. The statement (reported by the reputable magazine Pharmabiz this week) was made by the Indian Health Ministry and Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) following a meeting held in late January.

There had been hopes that nimesulide would be included for this measure in 2023 when aceclofenac and ketoprofen were outlawed, but for reasons that are unclear, this didn’t happen. The fact that IVRI led on a recent publication reconfirming experimentally that nimesulide does indeed kill vultures at levels they would ingest from treated cattle may be a key factor in this latest move. Earlier publications have shown that nimesulide kills wild vultures and there had been experimental testing also in South Africa of related vultures demonstrating its toxicity.

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.

Dr Triveni Dutt, Director ICAR-IVRI, Izatnagar stressed on the importance of immediate action needed to save the vultures by the judicious use of NSAIDS in veterinary practice and to take stern regulatory steps to ban the drugs (like nimesulide) harmful to vultures.

SAVE chair Jemima Parry-Jones commented “This shows how long-term efforts are being listened to by the authorities, and as long as this is quickly followed by formal notification and legislation, as happened for aceclofenac and ketoprofen last year, 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 ban should come as soon as possible so the use of these drugs in veterinary care becomes illegal.”

Dr A M Pawde of IVRI commented: “Our studies have proved that the painkiller nimesulide is toxic to vultures when they eat flesh of treated livestock. Nimesulide is one of several similar drugs, some of which are known to be safe. It is high time to ban such toxic drugs so that these important species can be saved from extinction”.

Dr Pawde of IVRI undertaking safety testing. (c) Chris Bowden RSPB

Kishor Rithe, Director of BNHS added “If nimesulide is quickly banned nationwide, since evidence for the toxicity to vultures is already so clear, then the future of vultures really will look significantly brighter.”

Dr Karikalan of IVRI said: “Nimesulide has become an increasingly popular alternative to diclofenac, but vets are generally happy to use safe alternatives such as meloxicam and tolfenamic acid. Its pleasing to see that our safety-testing work is being taken seriously in the interest of vulture and environmental conservation”.

Sachin Ranade of BNHS cautioned that “Unfortunately we know that despite its proven toxicity to vultures, nimesulide has become increasingly available across India, so regulation seems the only way to address this major threat. The fact that there are also concerns regarding its safety in humans and the DTABI is also calling for more research into this further raises the alarm for the drug”.

We hope to update further soon if the DTABI recommendation results in Indian Government legislation and regulation of the drug. Whether it will also extend to a large vial ban is not clear, but this suggestion was also mentioned by DTABI and if so, it will avoid the need for further legislator steps in future.

Also see the SAVE NSAIDs alert page on our website for further details and information regarding the toxicity of nimesulide and other similar drugs, with other related publications.

Compiled by Chris Bowden

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