Regulatory experts have recommended Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like meloxicam as safer alternative to diclofenac as illegal sale and misuse of human diclofenac for veterinary use has become rampant in many parts of India.
NSAID is a drug class that reduces pain, decreases fever, prevents blood clots, and in higher doses, decreases inflammation.
Non-toxic drug like meloxicam which is a safer alternative to diclofenac has been recommended as it has been tested and shown to be safe for vultures.
Besides this, it has been learnt that other vulture-toxic NSAIDs are competing with meloxicam for the former market share of diclofenac thereby posing threat to the recovery of Asia’s critically endangered vultures.
As per the study done by www.save-vultures.org, there is evidence for the toxicity to vultures of six NSAIDs other than diclofenac, namely aceclofenac, carprofen, flunixin, ketoprofen, nimesulide and phenylbutazone. Meloxicam remains the only known vulture-safe NSAID.
Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had issued a notice to the state drug controllers to monitor and stop use of diclofenac for animals in November 2007.
Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) further in July 17, 2015 recommended its marketing in single use pack witnessing its rampant misuse for treating live stock.
Veterinary use of the drug diclofenac used in the treatment of livestock has been linked to the collapse of vulture populations throughout South Asia.
Vultures are species that perform a vital ecosystem service by disposing of carrion and their decline has had dramatic ecological and socio-economic consequences.
Surveys in India show that the country’s Indian and Slender-billed Vulture populations declined by almost 97% between 1992 and 2007.
Extensive research has identified the cause of the decline to be diclofenac. Vultures feeding on the carcasses of animals recently treated with the drug suffer renal failure and die.
In 2006, the governments of India, Pakistan and Nepal introduced a ban on the manufacture of diclofenac and pharmaceutical firms were encouraged to promote an alternative drug meloxicam, which is proven to be safe for vultures and an effective treatment for livestock.
Misuse of human forms of diclofenac in the veterinary sector remains a significant threat to vultures, along with the wide-scale use of untested veterinary medicines in India.