Animal Aid

APC PRIMATE REPORT - Government told by its advisory body to curb monkey experiments

Posted 1 July 2003
Marmosets. Credit: BUAV

On July 1st the Animal Procedures Committee (APC) - the government's official 'independent' advisory body on animal experiments - launched its new report on the use of primates under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986).

The report is available at www.apc.gov.uk/reference/primates.pdf.

As the major use of primates (around 72% in recent years) is in toxicology experiments - mainly for assessing pharmaceutical safety and efficacy - the report focussed primarily on this category. The APC will review other uses of primates at a future date.

The report makes some important recommendations, including that:

  • the pharmaceutical industry and its international regulatory agencies must take immediate action to accept the development and implementation of non-animal methods in place of primate experiments

  • early micro-dose studies in human volunteers should be encouraged by government and industry and more funding should be provided to further develop such highly sensitive analytical methods

  • the government should take action to progress the donation and use of human tissue for research

  • the Home Office should discourage simultaneous drug testing in rodents and primates (often conducted in order to speed drug development). Clearly, rodent tests are supposed to precede primate tests and to inform whether primate tests are conducted

  • the validity (predictive value for humans) of primate data should be monitored by comparing test data with subsequent human data from clinical trials and clinical use (our emphasis).

This last recommendation - if implemented - should be the nail in the coffin of primate experiments (and, indeed, all animal experiments!) because it would show, as Animal Aid demonstrated in our own new report (Monkeying Around With Human Health: the cost to people of experiments on primates) that primate experiments are not valid or predictive for human medicine and often lead to human death or suffering as a consequence.

The APC is concerned that primate use looks set to increase as the pharmaceutical industry's sights are firmly set on drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) and are arguing that primates are the only suitable 'model' for such research.

The report made many other recommendations concerned with reducing and refining primate experiments but, compared with the final recommendation above, they pale into insignificance. The APC need only have made this one recommendation - and ensured that it was acted upon by government - in order to produce a literally revolutionary impact.

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