India Bans Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac for Animal Use: Vulture Conservation Measures Strengthened

A notification issued on July 31, 2023, by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has effectively banned the production, sale, and distribution of ‘ketoprofen’ and ‘aceclofenac’, along with their formulations, for animal use. This decisive step, executed under the authority of section 26A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 40), has been prompted by recommendations from the esteemed Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB).

The prohibited substances, ‘ketoprofen’ and ‘aceclofenac’, belong to the category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), widely employed to alleviate pain and inflammation in both humans and animals. However, a concerning observation has revealed that these drugs have adverse effects on vulture populations and other raptor species when ingested through treated carcasses.

India’s vulture population faced a significant decline during the 1990s, attributed to the use of diclofenac in cattle, which had devastating consequences for these crucial avian scavengers. Owing to their slow breeding rate and susceptibility to high mortality rates, the vulture species are at risk of extinction without stringent control measures. Despite previous bans on harmful substances, the process of vulture population recovery is anticipated to be prolonged.

Within India’s diverse avian landscape, there exist nine vulture species, comprising six resident species – namely, white-rumped vulture, Indian vulture, slender-billed vulture, red-headed vulture, bearded vulture, and Egyptian vulture – along with three migratory species: cinereous vulture, griffon vulture, and Himalayan vulture.

The Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), established under the ambit of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, serves as the supreme authority for rendering statutory decisions on technical drug-related matters within India. Operating as a constituent of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the DTAB plays a pivotal role by providing expert counsel to both Central and State Governments. Its responsibilities encompass the administration and enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, alongside fulfilling other mandates stipulated by the Act.

At the helm of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, who leads efforts to safeguard both human and animal health while promoting the conservation of critical species like vultures through informed and strategic decisions.