Safer Medicines - putting patient safety first

Putting patient safety first

Frequently Asked Questions

These consider some of the issues relating to the use of animals in biomedical research:

Surely there is evidence that animal research is useful for human medicine?

But animal research must lead to cures for humans?

But I am always hearing about new breakthroughs as a result of animal research

At least animal research must be conducted to the highest scientific standards?

Do animal researchers report their findings fairly?

Would drugs be safe for us if they were not first tested on animals?

When researchers administer a substance to animals, they get plenty of feedback on the effectiveness of that substance in the animals tested. However, results nearly always differ between species, so testing a substance on animals is not a reliable method of predicting the human responses to that substance. Some drugs with potential benefit for humans might not be approved because they have been found to harm animals; conversely, drugs found to be safe in animals might then go on to harm humans.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 people are killed every year in the UK by adverse reactions to prescription medicines (Pirmohamed et al 2004). In the US, adverse drug reactions are the fourth –sixth leading cause of death (Lazarou et al 1998). The arthritis drug Vioxx caused thousands of deaths prior to being taken off the market in 2004. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of deaths, but a scientist at the United States Food and Drugs Agency (FDA) calculated that approximately 55,600 people may have died as a result of Vioxx in the US alone (www.whistleblower.org/dr-david-grahams-full-story). While the FDA and the company that developed Vioxx failed in their responsibilities (Topol 2004), animal tests failed to predict that Vioxx would cause deaths and adverse reactions in humans.

Humans are animals, so what’s the problem?

How can we hope to cure cancer without animal research?

How can we know that medicines will not cause birth defects without testing them on animals?

Wasn’t animal research responsible for the polio vaccine and other major medical and scientific advances?

Don’t all doctors support the concept of animal research?

Why does animal research continue?

Aren’t the 3Rs the best way to phase out animal research?

If we don’t use animals, what will we use?

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