Replace Animal Experiments
By John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
This opinion piece was published on Dec. 15, 2008, in the USA Today.
There are many things wrong with the use of intimidation and violence in the critical debate over animal research. In addition to being anathema in our society, such tactics obscure important issues regarding animal experiments and human health.
I am a cardiologist and a former animal researcher. I stopped experimenting on animals after I came to doubt the medical value of such research. Today, a growing number of physicians, scientists and scientific agencies believe that moving to non-animal research and testing methods is critical to advancing human health.
Numerous reports confirm very poor correlations between animal research results and human results, and the research breakthroughs so optimistically reported in the media almost always fail in humans.
Examples abound. Every one of 197 human trials using 85 HIV/AIDS vaccines tested in animals has failed. More than 150 human stroke trials using treatments successful in animals have failed, as have at least two dozen animal diabetes cures. Vioxx was tested successfully in eight studies using six animal species, yet this anti-inflammatory medication may have caused the deaths of more Americans than the Vietnam War.
The monoclonal antibody TGN1412 was safe in monkeys at 500 times the dose tested in humans, yet all six British volunteers who received the drug in 2006 nearly died. Conversely, simple aspirin produces birth defects in at least seven animal species, yet is safe in human pregnancy. When even identical human twins have different disease susceptibilities, how can we think answers will be found in mice or monkeys?
The National Cancer Institute now uses panels of human cells and tissues to test treatments for cancer and HIV/AIDS, and to detect drug toxicities. And the National Research Council now recommends replacing animal toxicity testing with in vitro methods.
I can attest that animal research is inherently cruel. Animal protection laws do not mitigate this reality. Whether the debate involves humane issues or human benefits, the evidence confirms the need to replace animal experiments with more accurate human-specific methods. That's the best way to make progress and improve health.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., is a senior medical and research adviser with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.