Figures just released by the Home Office show that the UK has increased its reliance on animal testing. More than 4 million animals were experimented on in 2012 – a 9% increase over the previous year, and the highest number for 31 years. This increase in animal testing is bad news for patients, not just for animals.
This fact has been recognised at the highest levels in the US. The Director of the National Institutes of Health (the world’s largest supporter of medical research), Dr Francis Collins, frequently criticises animal testing for being expensive, time consuming and unreliable. His predecessor, Dr Elias Zerhouni, Director from 2002-2008, lamented last month that researchers have over-relied on animal data, saying: “The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem…We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.”
Meanwhile, despite the UK coalition government’s pledge to reduce numbers, they have presided over a dramatic reversal in the decline in animal use seen after 1982. This will not be forgotten at election time, since the British public care deeply about this issue. In a recent NOP poll, 82% would not knowingly donate to a medical research charity that funds animal research. The public is way ahead of the government in understanding that medical progress would accelerate with a shift away from animal testing, towards more relevant technologies based on human tissues.
Patient safety charity Safer Medicines Trust is working to speed this essential transition needed to transform health care. Dr Bob Coleman DSc, who worked for 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry, before co-founding the world’s first human tissue research company, and is now UK Science Director of Safer Medicines Trust, says:
"The time has come to focus on the relevant, and to realise that more human-based testing is essential if we are to develop safe and effective new medicines."
"Patients need safer affordable medicines delivered in their lifetime. The pharmaceutical industry is in crisis, with empty pipelines and sky-rocketing costs. Focusing on human biology is the route to developing safer medicines faster and with lower total cost of development."
Kathy Archibald BSc, Director of Safer Medicines Trust, says:
"The government and the pharmaceutical industry must act now to employ the new human-based technologies which could slash the 10,000 deaths from adverse drug reactions in the UK every year."