Science & Tech

Experts applaud the Centre’s decision to prohibit the use of aceclofenac and ketoprofen

In a notification dated July 31, 2023, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare prohibited the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of ketoprofen and aceclofenac and their formulations for animal use under Section 26A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 40).

Central idea

  • Experts in vulture conservation have praised the idea, calling it a game changer for India’s fragile vulture population. The actual test, however, will be the effective implementation of the prohibition, while experts also argue for similar protection measures to be extended to other raptors (birds of prey).

What is the difference between Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac?

  • Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) that are often used to treat pain, inflammation, and fever. They belong to the same class of drugs, although their chemical structures and properties differ slightly.


  • The usage of diclofenac, a pain medication given to cattle, caused a significant drop in vulture populations in India in the 1990s.
  • Vultures eating on cattle corpses swallowed the poison, causing them to die in agony.
  • In 2004, it was revealed that 97% of the vulture population had been lost, especially affecting species such as oriental white-backed vultures, long-billed vultures, and slender-billed vultures.

The Vulture Recovery Strategy

  • In 2004, the Indian government and different entities developed a Vulture Recovery Plan in response to the situation.
  • The strategy called for a restriction on the use of diclofenac in veterinary medicine, the development of safer replacements, and the establishment of vulture conservation breeding centres.
  • Because vultures are sluggish breeders with lengthy lifespans, any increase in annual mortality rate exceeding 5% may endanger their survival.
  • Diclofenac was banned as a veterinary medicine in 2006, and it was later gazetted in 2008.
  • As a result of the restriction, the safer medicine meloxicam was recommended as a substitute.
  • Despite this advancement, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ketoprofen and aceclofenac continue to endanger vultures.

Threats posed by Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac to vultures

  • Harmful Metabolites: When cattle or other livestock are given ketoprofen or aceclofenac, these medications can be metabolised and transformed into harmful chemicals like diclofenac. When vultures ingest the carcasses of treated animals, diclofenac is particularly toxic to them and can cause kidney failure and death.
  • Slow Metabolism in Vultures: Vultures have a slower metabolism than other birds, making them more vulnerable to the negative effects of these medications. Toxic metabolites build up in their systems over time, causing serious health problems and even death.
  • Vultures are obligate scavengers, which means they primarily eat on carrion (dead animals). However, their scavenging behaviour exposes them to the risk of consuming polluted animal remains.

Contradictory scenarios on the Ground:

  • One of the major obstacles in executing the prohibition is the presence of contradictory scenarios on the ground. While many experts and organisations support the prohibition to conserve vultures, parties with vested interests in the usage of these medications may have conflicting opinions.
  • State and federal governments’ roles: While the national government makes the ban decision, it is critical to monitor how the state and central governments interact to properly implement the prohibition.
  • Immediate Implementation and Awareness: Because there is no set date for implementation, the prohibition is effective immediately. This necessitates immediate action by state authorities and appropriate agencies to guarantee that the ban is strictly enforced.
  • Potential Opposition to the Ban: Given the importance of livestock and agriculture in India, some may object to the ban if they rely on the use of Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac for animal care.
  • Extending Safety Measures to Other Raptors: To ensure the safety of medications for other raptors, extra study and testing may be required to determine potential dangers and harmful effects on these birds.
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