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PRESS RELEASE – WEDNESDAY 24th AUGUST 2005

ANIMAL TESTING – MPs, GPs and scientists demand evaluation

The RDS’ claims about the medical value of animal experimentation are unsubstantiated by scientific evidence. Europeans for Medical Progress has amassed overwhelming evidence, from the scientific literature, of harm to humans caused by reliance on misleading animal tests.

Likewise, claims that the scientific community overwhelmingly supports animal experimentation do not stand up to scrutiny. An independent survey of 500 GPs in August 2004 found that 82% of doctors are “concerned that animal data can be misleading when applied to humans” and 83% would “support an independent scientific evaluation of the clinical relevance of animal experimentation”. The (2002) Toxicology Working Group of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures recommended that “the reliability and relevance of all existing animal tests should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”

Animal tests were made a legal requirement following the Thalidomide tragedy forty years ago, in the hope of preventing another such disaster. But have they lived up to their promise? Recently withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx was safe and even beneficial to animal’s hearts but caused hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes in people – the biggest drug disaster in history. Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx, favoured animal data over human clinical trial data. Shockingly, adverse reactions to prescription medicines (all tested for safety on animals) are now the fourth leading cause of death in the western world. New human-based safety tests before and during clinical trials (such as microdosing) could prevent many of these deaths.

Many studies comparing drug side-effects in humans and animals have found animal tests to be less predictive than tossing a coin. Over 700 drugs to treat stroke have been found safe and effective in animal studies but none has been found safe and effective for patients. Hormone replacement therapy, prescribed to many millions of women because it lowered monkeys’ risk of heart disease and stroke, increases women’s risks significantly. Animal testing for teratogenicity (potential to cause birth defects) has been shown by a new study to be ineffective.

This Government came to power promising a Royal Commission on animal experimentation. It is high time the real harms from animal testing were weighed against the alleged benefits. It is high time advocates of animal testing were held to account. The RDS claim that “the validity, usefulness and relevance of animal research need to be demonstrated in every case” – clearly, they should support an evaluation of animal testing, yet they do not.

Europeans for Medical Progress is now calling for an independent and transparent scientific evaluation of the use of animals as surrogate humans in drug safety testing and medical research. 90 MPs already support this call, which is made in Early Day Motion 92, whose wording is below.

State-of-the-art human-based tests could have prevented the Vioxx tragedy. The public deserves to be protected from another ‘Vioxx’ in future. Clearly, an assessment needs to be made of the relative performance of the various methods of safety testing available. Substantial evidence exists that animal tests are inadequate for the task but – incredibly – this has never been systematically investigated. The only responsible course of action is to evaluate animal testing scientifically, in an independent and transparent manner.

Says Science Director of Europeans for Medical Progress, Dr Jarrod Bailey, “The urgency of this evaluation cannot be overstated: people’s lives are at stake. The Government must act now to facilitate the conduct of this evaluation and undertake to act upon the results with due speed when the implications have become apparent.”

Says Tony Benn, “There is every reason why the public should be sceptical about claims that animal testing benefits human health. It is  astonishing that animal testing has never been scientifically evaluated and the process is long overdue.”

Notes to Editor

EDM 92:“That this House, in common with Europeans for Medical Progress, expresses its  concerns regarding the safeguarding of public health through data obtained  from laboratory animals, particularly in light of large numbers of serious  and fatal adverse drug reactions that were not predicted by animal  studies; is surprised that the Government has not commissioned or  evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments, and  has no plans to do so; and, in common with 83 per cent of general practitioners in a recent survey, calls upon the Government to facilitate  an independent and transparent scientific evaluation of the use of animals  as surrogate humans in drug safety testing and medical research.”

Supporting an evaluation are: The Rt Hon Tony Benn, Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Mike Hancock MBE, MP, Michael Meacher MP, Ann Widdecombe MP, Norman Baker MP

Europeans for Medical Progress is dedicated to improving patient safety – see www.safermedicines.org

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