Is diclofenac a threat to European vultures?

News 12/09/2014

European Medicines Agency starts assessing risks of the use of veterinary medicines containing diclofenac to vultures and other necrophagous birds and launches public consultation

Upon request of the European Commission, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP) is investigating whether the use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory agent and painkiller, in animals presents a risk for vultures and other necrophagous birds in Europe that feed on animal cadavers.

Diclofenac is known to be linked to the rapid decline of vulture populations in Southeast Asia. The birds were eating the carcasses of animals that had recently been treated with diclofenac and often died subsequently of kidney failure. Consequently, veterinary medicines containing diclofenac have been banned in a number of Southeast Asian countries.

In the European Union (EU), diclofenac has been authorised for use in animals since the 1990s in companion animals and more recently in food-producing species, e.g. cattle and pigs, in five Member States. Conservation organisations, citizens and politicians have expressed their concerns over the risks that diclofenac may present to vultures and other necrophagous bird populations in the EU.

The CVMP is expected to provide a scientific opinion to the European Commission by 30 November 2014.

For the PDF icon preparation of this opinion , the committee is Microsoft Office document icon inviting all interested parties to provide information and share their views on the topic by 10 October 2014.

As part of its assessment, the CVMP will consider information and data from many different sources from across the EU Member States in relation to:

  • EU rules for the disposal of dead animals and the use of animal by-products;
  • use of diclofenac in the field (species treated and pattern of use);
  • existing procedures for feeding vultures and other necrophagous birds in and outside specific feeding stations;
  • depletion of diclofenac residues in food-producing species;
  • measures in place across the EU to mitigate the risks related to the potential presence of diclofenac residues in animal by-products.

Once all this information is reviewed, the CVMP will give a risk assessment and if a risk is identified, it will provide a recommendation on how to manage this risk effectively.

Once adopted, the CVMP scientific opinion, together with the comments received from stakeholders, will be published on the Agency's website.

Upon receipt of the opinion, the European Commission will decide if there is a need for further regulatory action at national or EU level and will initiate follow-up procedures as necessary, usually in the form of a referral to the CVMP.

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