PCRM Sues NIH over Controversial Cat Experiments
In December 2001, PCRM filed suit against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when it refused to disclose disturbing details of cat experiments being performed by Michael Podell, an Ohio State University (OSU) veterinarian. With full funding from NIH, Dr. Podell has continued to dose cats with amphetamines ("speed") and to infect them with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in a clumsy attempt to mimic the effects of drug abuse in HIV-positive individuals. Dr. Podell subjects cats to spinal taps and other stressful and painful procedures before killing them to examine their brains.
NIH refused to reveal details of Dr. Podell's work, such as his rationale for using cats, behavioral testing procedures, and methods for removing and studying the cats' brains. What could not be concealed is the staggering dollar amount that NIH, through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has pledged—$1.68 million—to a study that is essentially worthless to people living with AIDS. Prominent neurologists, an AIDS activist organization, and a physician who specializes in drug addiction have spoken out about the inherent shortcomings of such a study. "NIH is far off the mark in studying FIV-infected cats. Misused funds put a terrible strain on much-needed programs such as prevention, education, and long-term care," says Milton Mills, M.D., a physician who treats HIV-positive patients.
Although national news coverage and continued campus protests in Ohio have yet to convince NIH to cancel its support, PCRM is confident that information revealed through the lawsuit will force the issue. "We believe these documents will show there is no reason to carry out these experiments on animals. Cats cannot show language deficits, subtle learning problems, hallucinations, delusions, or other neurological effects that occur in drug abusers," says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. "Moreover, the cat virus—FIV—is very different from HIV, and cat results would not apply to people." Other researchers are currently studying the effects of amphetamines in HIV-positive humans, using far more sophisticated methods than those used at OSU.