Only last week, it was cited in a ‘heart attack’ scare for humans, now the anti-inflammatory diclofenac is in a new controversy. Portugal’s government is “evaluating” the green-light for its use in cattle. If this happens, scientists fear a knock-on effect that could decimate the Iberian Peninsula’s populations of vultures and eagles.
A team led by University of Aveiro biologist Carlos Fonseca is now actively setting about proving its concerns.
It has the “near extinction” of vultures in South Asia to back-up data.
Explains Fonseca, diclofenac stays in cattle systems for some time after death, and is toxic for vultures that feed off carcasses. They die from renal failure within two days – and as these birds feed in groups, when this happens, the consequences are dire.
Financed by the US Morris Foundation for Animals, Aveiro’s research is backed by various Spanish universities, as well as researchers from the University of Minnesota.
Also taking part are environmental organisations, including LPN, Quercus and RIAS (the wildlife recuperation centre based in Ria Formosa, Algarve), as well as the veterinary hospital of the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro.
Diclofenac is a ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory’, like Ibuprofen. It was linked in a recent study printed in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) this month to heart attacks, with the warning that “the risk could be the greatest within the initial 30 days of taking the drugs”.
One of the leading research doctors in the study warned that the findings “should also bring awareness to patients who self-medicate”.