A decade ago, the anti-inflammatory drug devastated South Asian vulture populations after the birds ate dead cattle and pigs. By the time India banned the use of the drug in 2006, the population that had numbered in the millions was close to disappearing; in an Indian national park, the population of some vulture species shrunk by as much as 97 percent over a 15-year period. It wasn't until 2012 when the number of vultures in India began to rise again, though slightly.
Given this bleak history, vets in Europe want to stop diclofenac use before their vultures go, too. "I was shocked when I first heard that diclofenac had been authorized for use in - of all places - Spain, which is a stronghold for vultures in Europe," said Thijs Kuiken, a veterinary pathologist at the Dutch institute Erasmus Medical Center, in a statement published Monday. (Spain allowed veterinary diclofenac to be marketed beginning in 2013.) "This example shows that we need to radically change the way we deal with pharmaceuticals, both those used in human and veterinary medicine."