Gertsch Group

Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland

The devastating impact of diclofenac on religion

The devastating impact of diclofenac on religion
Jurg Gertsch - Wed Mar 10, 2010 @ 05:27AM
Comments: 2

Diclofenac, also marketed as Voltaren, is a successful non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which inhibits COX and prostaglandin synthesis. This drug is used to treat inflammation and pain both in humans and animals. When it was discovered in 1973 by Ciba-Geigy (Novartis) researchers nobody would have imagined that it could one day have an impact on the religous practice of the Zoroastrians in India. There are approximately 200'000 Zoroastrians and some of them keep to the ritual exposure of the dead to Gyps vultures. You will notice when you approach a Zoroastrian cementary because the vultures occasionally drop something. On the fourth day after death, the soul is reunited with its fravashi (guardian spirit) and the experiences of life in the material world are collected for the continuing battle in the spiritual world. But in the last decade the actual battle is on earth and has a chemical cause. Diclofenac is now causing problems as an "anti-Zoroastrian chemical weapon" because Indians use this drug widely to treat animals. Consequently, the vultures eat the carcasses (which are left in the countryside) and are killed by diclofenac that causes renal failor in these birds. Hundreds of thousands of vultures have been poisned by diclofenac. Noteworthy, the tradename for diclofenac in India is "Morbidic" (nomen est omen). No vultures no ritual exposure of the dead - no Zoroastrian practice. If this causes headache diclofenac may help. However, the diclofenac triggered mass extinction of vultures in India has also led to ecological problems because vultures play an important role in wildlife. E.g. there are now more wild dogs that carry rabies, which again affects people, who suffer, become more religious ...

Comments: 2

Comments

1. chemotracker   |   Sat Jun 12, 2010 @ 04:21AM

While diclofenac may be bad for vultures it would be worth studying the number of cases of deaths by paracetamol overdosage. Liver failure in humans due to misdosage of paracetamol causes thousands of lethal cases worldwide, yet this anilin analgesic is sold over the counter and people are not sufficiently informed about liver toxicity

2. phil33   |   Thu Oct 14, 2010 @ 06:44AM

I think that paracetamol should be banned as medicine. Diclofenac, which is an excellent analgesic, which is metabolized in the liver to 4-hydroxidiclofenac, is widely found in wastewaters ... a metabolite only toxic to vultures as it seems - here we have the closing of a niche in chemical ecology

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