A Victory for Ethical Research: OSU Researcher Michael Podell Calls It Quits
“I was greatly relieved to learn that OSU’s pointless cat experiments were halted due to the efforts of PCRM and others. As a participant in Johns Hopkins’ SHARE study (Study to Help AIDS Research Effort) for 18 years, I have seen firsthand that human, epidemiological research is the only reasonable avenue to a cure.” —J. Scott Douglas
After severe scientific criticism from PCRM and other organizations, Ohio State University (OSU) has ended its federally funded animal experiments in which cats were dosed with methamphetamine (“speed”), infected with a disease-causing virus, and then killed and dissected.
Veterinarian Michael Podell began the experiments two years ago, attempting to imitate the collective brain-damaging effects of speed and HIV. However, since cats are naturally resistant to HIV, he used feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) instead. Although Dr. Podell received a $1.7 million federal grant, many observers objected to his poor treatment of animals and the scientific flaws of his study.
PCRM’s investigation showed that Dr. Podell had failed to consider nonanimal alternative methods of study, as required by the Animal Welfare Act and other federal mandates. In fact, studies of human patients had already shown the dangers of drug abuse in HIV-positive individuals. Furthermore, infected patients treated with amphetamines for depression could easily be examined for neurological effects. While human studies can be both ethical and extremely detailed, it is impossible to evaluate language deficits or subtle learning deficiencies, hallucinations, delusions, or other problems drug users might encounter by studying cats.
PCRM also initiated formal complaints to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), OSU, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Local organizations, particularly Protect Our Earth’s Treasures, fought the experiments at the grassroots level.
On December 27, 2001, PCRM filed suit against NIH, which funded the project, for its refusal to release unexpurgated copies of Dr. Podell’s research protocol. In all, 108 cats were set to die in the experiments. An early end to the study spared more than half of them. “These experiments should never have begun,” said PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “We are delighted that no more animals will be used and that these funds can be freed up for more useful research purposes.”
PCRM would like to thank Wolfgang and Maria Petersen, Noah Wyle, and Tracy Warbin for their assistance in launching this vital campaign.