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NEWS RELEASE June 13, 2002

Doctors Declare Victory as Cruel Drug Abuse Experiments on Cats Are Halted

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) today declared a victory in its two-year battle to stop federally funded experiments at Ohio State University (OSU) in which cats were dosed with methamphetamine ("speed"), infected with a disease-causing virus, and finally killed.

The beleaguered experimenter, veterinarian Michael Podell, had begun the experiments attempting to mimic the combined brain-damaging effects of drugs of abuse and HIV, using feline immunodeficiency virus instead of HIV, to which cats are resistant.

However, PCRM doctors called foul over the experiments in complaints to OSU and to the National Institutes of Health, which had committed $1.7 million to the project that was slated to kill 108 cats. The doctors group pointed out that Dr. Podell had failed to consider alternatives to animal use, as required by law. Most notably, HIV-positive human patients who have used methamphetamine are already under clinical study, and the brain-damaging effects of drugs and the virus are well known. Ohio-based animal protection organizations, particularly Protect Our Earth's Treasures also sharply criticized the study.

"This experiment was not only cruel, but also needless," said PCRM president Neal D. Barnard, M.D. "Dr. Podell should have considered more ethical means of research, and there is no question that they were available."

PCRM has a pending lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health for its refusal to release unredacted copies of Dr. Podell's research protocol. Rumors that Dr. Podell had abandoned the controversial experiments had been circulating for weeks. Confirmation that they had, in fact, ended came in an announcement from his contacts at a research advocacy organization, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which attempted to defend the experiments. Dr. Podell is reportedly leaving Ohio and moving to Chicago.

"These experiments should never have begun," said Dr. Barnard. "We are delighted that no further animals will be used and that these funds can be freed up for more useful research purposes."

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.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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