Pretoria, South Africa

South Africa outlaws phenylbutazone as a veterinary drug



The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) has announced that the MEDICINES AND RELATED SUBSTANCES ACT, 1965 (Act 101 of 1965) has been amended and that phenylbutazone has been declared a prohibited substance for use in South Africa. This decision by the Minister of Health has been taken as per recommendation of the Medicines Control Council.

Populations of various species of Gyps vulture in the Indian subcontinent have collapsed since the early 1990s and are now at high risk of extinction ; the same seems to occur in other parts of the world.

Scavengers, especially vultures, provide one of the most important yet under-appreciated ecosystem services of any avian group. Because they feed by scavenging, vultures are highly specialized to rapidly dispose of large carcasses, thus playing a critical role in nutrient cycling, leading other scavengers to carcasses and reducing the risk of contamination by pathogens by quickly consuming decomposing carcasses. Veterinary use of diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), amongst which phenylbutazone, is a major cause of the observed population declines. Vultures are exposed to NSAIDs when they consume carcasses of livestock that were treated with the drug shortly before death. Diclofenac, phenylbutazone and other veterinary NSAIDs (carprofen, flunixin, ibuprofen) are still licensed and used in many areas of the world, including southern Africa and South America

Sources : (1) SAVA , (2) Richard Cuthbert, Jemima Parry-Jones, Rhys E Green and Deborah J Pain. 2007. NSAIDs and scavenging birds : potential impacts beyond Asia’s critically endangered vulture. Biol Lett. Feb 22, 2007; 3(1): 90-93. (3)

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