Ban Veterinary Diclofenac Now! - FAQ

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  • Frequently asked questions

     

    What is diclofenac?

    Diclofenac is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) present in many commonly used drugs that are used for treating moderate pain. It is extremely toxic to vultures and eagles. Its use on cattle wiped out 99% of the vulture population in South Asia in the 90's.

    Vultures and eagles eating cattle treated with a veterinary dose of diclofenac will die in less than 2 days.
     
     

    Which species are affected by the use of diclofenac?

    Back in the late nineties, many South Asian vulture populations started to decline dramatically. Today, less than 1% of them remain. It was only after years of research that diclofenac was identified as the main cause of these declines.

    BirdLife International, together with other conservation NGOs, worked together with the governments of India, Pakistan and Nepal to ban the sale of veterinary formulations of diclofenac in the region. This was finally achieved in 2006, with stronger regulations being added in 2008 and Bangladesh banning it completely in 2010.

    Vultures are carrion feeders and it is impossible to guarantee that diclofenac-treated carrion will not end up being eaten by vultures. If even a small fraction of diclofenac-treated carcasses are left out in the open, we would be facing the declines once witnessed in Asia.

    Furthermore, a recent study has shown that diclofenac can also have deadly effects on eagle species of the genus Aquila. These birds of prey are opportunisic scavengers, which puts them at risk of diclofenac poisoning. The threat of diclofenac is therefore a global problem.

     

    What is the conservation status of the species affected by diclofenac?

    Eagles

    Fourteen species of Aquila eagles are distributed accross Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America. Four of them are considered conservation priority species by the European Commission: the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Greater Spotted Eagle, the Eastern Imperial Eagle and the Lesser Spotted Eagle. 

    Vultures

    There are 21 species of vultures in the world, five of which can be found in the American continent. The other 16 are distributed across Africa, Europe and Asia. Of these so-called Old World vultures, 75% are globally threatened or near-threatened, with the number of threatened species expected to rise in the next conservation status assessment.

    Only four Old World vultures breed in Europe: the Endangered Egyptian Vulture, the Near Threatened Cinereous Vulture, and important populations of Griffon Vulture and Bearded Vulture. 

    Three of the four vulture populations have been increasing steadily (except the Egyptian Vulture), partly due to the intensive conservation efforts funded by European Union budget lines. Since 1996, the EU and national governments have invested significant financial resources on the conservation of vultures, and there have been at least 67 LIFE projects related to these species – between 2008 and 2012, nine vulture conservation projects alone received 10.7 million Euros. All conservation efforts would be useless if the use of veterinary diclofenac becomes widespread.

     

    Is diclofenac legally sold in Europe? 

    Yes - Since late 2013, veterinary diclofenac is commercially available in Spain and Italy. We also know it is being exported from Italy to a number of other EU and non-EU countries.

     

    Are there safe alternatives to diclofenac

    Yes - A safe alternative drug, meloxicam, has been identified and tested on vultures and a range of other bird species. The meloxicam patent is more than 10-years old, meaning any pharmaceutical company can produce it at relatively low costs.

     

    Where is diclofenac being produced? 

    In Spain, veterinary diclofenac is marketed under two brand names, Diclovet, and Dolofenac, both registered by FATRO Iberica SL. In Italy, veterinary diclofenac is marketed under the name Reuflogin by FATRO S.p.A.

    Veterinary diclofenac does not have a central marketing approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It is authorized independently in each Member State, and despite the toxicity tests needed, it is clear that environmental risks have not been properly considered in, at least, Spain and Italy. 

  • European vultures in Numbers
     
    • 21 species globally: 16 in the Old World, 5 in the New World.
    • 4 Old World vulture species found in Europe.
    • Only in Spain there are:
      • 3,000 Egyptian Vultures (85% of European population) 
      • 5,000 Cinereous Vultures (97% of European population)
      • 70,000 Griffon Vultures (90% of European population)
      • 300 Bearded Vultures (67% of European population)
    • Restocking European populations greatly depends on healthy Spanish and Italian vulture populations.


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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.