Animal Aid

Lethal Business

Conclusion

'The goal of toxicology is the assessment of possible risk to man' (31).

An issue underlying the whole question of safety testing is the perception that good health is largely dependent on a constant stream of new medical drugs coming onto the market. The reality of the situation is very different. According to the World Health Organisation, most of us could get by quite happily with a list of just 350 essential drugs. This core list presents the most efficacious, safe and cost-effective medicines for priority conditions (32). The pharmaceutical industry thinks otherwise - the British National Formulary lists more than 10,000 different medical drugs licensed for use in the UK.

It is perhaps this state of affairs that prompted a 2004 House of Commons Health Select Committee to investigate the marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry. At the hearings, expert witnesses testified that 90% of new drugs brought on to the market were simply 'me-too' - in other words, products that are not significantly safer or more effective than already existing drugs in the same class (33).

This unhealthy situation is made worse by the fact that we are all exposed to a cocktail of chemicals through the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Very few of these chemicals have been tested for adverse health effects, although some are already known to be highly toxic (34).

This proliferation of unnecessary and often toxic chemicals of itself requires urgent political action. Meanwhile, common sense and the need to protect public health dictate that industry and the regulatory authorities work towards adopting a human-based, methodologically sound approach to toxicity testing.

References

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  34. WWF-UK National Biomonitoring Survey 2003.

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