THE DRUG Comptroller General of India has granted State officials three months to implement the ban on Diclofenac - the drug that preys on birds of prey. The drug was formally banned on May 18.
Diclofenac is used as an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle. However, vultures that feed on carcasses of cows and buffaloes medicated with the drug die of kidney failure. The drug is believed to have decimated 90 per cent of the vulture population in the Indian sub-continent over the last decade, bringing the species to the verge of extinction.
The annihilation evoked loud protests from environmentalists who demanded an immediate ban on the veterinary usage of the drug. The Centre finally acceded last month and veterinary pharmacists were given three months to get rid of existing stocks.
“The Drug Comptroller has directed his State counterpart to ensure that the drug is removed from store shelves within three months, with effect from the date of ban,” revealed ornithologist Dr Vibhu Prakash.
Diclofenac has been used in its sodium salt form (Novartis etc) for dozens of years as a safe and reliable painkiller for humans.
Trouble, however, started when the drug started being used as an anti-inflammatory substance for cattle. “Carrion eating vultures that ingested the drug died of kidney failure, usually within 3-4 days,” informed Dr Prakash, who works with the Bombay Natural History Society, an organisation that was at the forefront of the demand for banning Diclofenac.
“The link between vulture deaths and Diclofenac was first underscored in 2004 by Dr Lindsay Oaks, a Washington State University scientist working in Pakistan,” revealed the natural scientist who has himself conducted extensive studies on the subject.
“Veterinary Diclofenac is the main reason for the catastrophic decline in the population of the oriental backed vulture, long-billed vulture and long billed vulture during the last decade,” said Prakash, who was in the City to attend a workshop on Sirpur Lake.
Animal Husbandry Department officials, however, disclaimed any knowledge of the ban. “We have received no such information,” said Joint Director Dr R S Shrimal when contacted over the phone.