Scientists criticise animal experiments

Posted on the 3rd June 2011

A group of scientists and doctors have written to the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary expressing their concerns about the rising problems of drug failures and adverse drug reactions. In an open letter published in The Lancet, experts criticise the pharmaceutical industry’s over-reliance on the use of animals in drug testing.

The authors point out that 90 per cent of new drugs fail in clinical trials, and that diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, many cancers and stroke remain without adequate treatments. Meanwhile, adverse drug reactions have reached ‘epidemic proportions’, killing 197,000 EU citizens annually. According to the scientists, an important factor contributing to these deaths is the use of animals to predict drug behaviour in humans.

Their letter states: ‘The stark differences, not only in the diseases of different animal species, but also the ways that they respond to drugs, are now well known. Many studies have shown that animal tests frequently fail to translate to the clinic, with estimates of their ability to predict effects on people as low as 37—50 per cent, or no better than the toss of a coin.’

It ends with a call on the government to initiate an evaluation of animal tests and human-biology-based tests, to see which are more effective for predicting drug safety in human patients. Please write to your MP and ask him or her to support this proposal, as set out in the Safety of Medicines Bill 2010-11.

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