Alamogordo Chimpanzees Will Remain at Nonresearch Facility While Institute of Medicine Reviews Usefulness of Experiments
WASHINGTON—The National Institutes of Health has confirmed in a written statement that 186 chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico will not be moved this year to a Texas facility, where they would have been subjected to invasive experiments. The transfer is being put on hold as the Institute of Medicine conducts an in-depth review of the merits of chimpanzee experimentation.
Over the past six months, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has worked alongside former Gov. Bill Richardson, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and others to urge the federal government to keep the chimpanzees permanently out of the laboratory.
The oldest chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility will especially benefit from this reprieve. Flo, Guy, and James were born in 1957, 1959, and 1960, respectively, and they have not been used in experiments for about a decade. Rudy is relatively young, but he is very ill and at risk for sudden cardiac death. Heart disease is the most common cause of death for captive chimpanzees, and the heart disease affecting many of the Alamogordo chimpanzees is well documented.
“As the Institute of Medicine reviews the scientific literature, it will find that there are many problems with using chimpanzees for the study of human diseases,” says John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C, senior medical and research adviser for PCRM. “Our closest living relatives are like us in many ways, particularly in their capacity for suffering, and yet different enough that infecting them with viruses does not adequately mimic human disease.”
In September, PCRM filed a federal complaint with Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, seeking to stop the planned transfer of the federally owned chimpanzees. The legal petition invoked the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, enacted to ensure that chimpanzees used in experiments for many years are retired to sanctuaries. Twelve authorities, including Dr. Pippin and renowned primatologists, co-signed the petition.
The doctors and scientists argued in their complaint, “Chimpanzees have repeatedly proved to be poor models for human disease research, including for HIV—a disease for which repeated failures have led most researchers to stop using chimpanzees—as well as for hepatitis, malaria, and cancer. Therefore, these animals are not necessary for this type of research. Superior alternatives are available and researchers continue to develop new, cutting-edge models for human disease research.”
Opposition to the chimpanzee experiments also came from Jane Goodall, Gene Hackman, actress Kristin Bauer, as well as scientists, doctors, and countless concerned citizens, including thousands of PCRM members.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.