New NHS funded study shows up animal testing shambles

Posted on the 8th June 2006

A just released survey of animal research funded by the NHS provides damning evidence - says national campaign group Animal Aid - that animal experiments aren't just cruel, they don't appear to work. The report shows that:
animal researchers don't talk to hospital doctors about their work
clinical trials with human patients get underway even before the animal research is completed
drugs that fail in animals are used in humans anyway
a drug that increased overall mortality in animals was, nonetheless, used in people
most of the animal research that was analysed was poorly conducted and gave conflicting results

The survey compared the clinical (i.e. human) outcome of six medical treatments with the results obtained from experiments on animals. The areas of research related to head injuries, blood clotting, stroke, disease in premature babies and osteoporosis. Each of the six topics was analysed by systematic review. A systematic review is ‘a summary of the medical literature that uses explicit methods to perform a thorough literature search and critical appraisal of individual studies and that uses appropriate statistical techniques to combine these valid studies’. In other words, systematic reviews normally represent the best available data.

One systematic review looked at the use of steroids in treating people with severe head injuries. The NHS study showed that, whereas the animal experiments had provided mixed results, the drug clearly increased the risk of death in patients and had to be discontinued.

Two other studies examined the effect of new drugs for the treatment of stroke. In both cases, the animal experiments showed that the drug improved the animals’ condition after being deliberately brain damaged. In human patients, however, the drugs increased the risk of death, and one of them increased the risk of disability.

Yet another systematic review looked at what effects steroids – given to pregnant animals – would have on the unborn. The aim of the experiments was to see whether the drug, given to pregnant women, could reduce the risk of mortality in premature babies whose lungs had not yet fully developed. Experiments conducted on monkeys, cattle and rabbits showed the drug treatment to have a positive effect on the lungs of the unborn. This outcome was also seen in the offspring of pregnant women. However, while the drug increased the risk of death in the unborn animals, it did not produce the same disastrous consequences in the developing human foetus.

Says Andre Menache MRCVS, Scientific Consultant to Animal Aid:

‘This high-quality survey is very significant in the debate about whether or not animal experiments have any relevance to human medicine. The answer provided by this NHS-commissioned report is that, across a range of important human ailments, animal research provides misleading and conflicting information and is therefore dangerously unreliable.’

Notes to Editors

  • For more information contact Andre Menache on 01732 364546

Read more posts...