Doctors Launch Second Round in Legal Battle Over Controversial Cat Experiments
NIH Denying Public Access to Information on Discontinued Experiments
WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is filing a motion on July 8 for summary judgment against the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marking the beginning of phase two of the legal battle over cat experiments at Ohio State University. PCRM seeks a court order compelling NIH to release information that it is withholding in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The motion is being filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
In June, the experiments, which involved infecting cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and dosing them with methamphetamine ("speed"), were halted amid a storm of scientific criticism and public outcry. However, NIH continues to refuse to disclose key information about the experiments.
"NIH authorized $1.68 million for the cat experiments, yet it refuses to allow the public to see how this federal money is being spent," states Mindy Kursban, general counsel for PCRM. "NIH's refusal to disclose a noncommercial scientist's grant application is a clear violation of the Freedom of Information Act."
"A court-ordered release of information about the cat experiments would be the first step in knocking down the wall of secrecy that currently surrounds the animal experimentation industry," explains Ms. Kursban. "We believe that what's going on behind closed doors is not only cruel, but wasteful as well."
NIH continues to conceal crucial information, including the researcher's justification for choosing cats as a suitable animal upon which to experiment, drug dosing schedules, and the procedure for removing the cats' brains. The researcher, Michael Podell, has abandoned the controversial experiments as well as the remainder of his $1.68 million NIH grant.
"It is a great victory that the cruel drug-abuse experiments have ended. We believe it's time for NIH to release all documents related to this unfortunate case," says Neal D. Barnard, M.D., president and founder of PCRM. Numerous physicians have criticized the experiments, saying that cats artificially infected with FIV and dosed with speed are a poor model for people with AIDS who use drugs for recreation or to combat depression. Currently there are numerous ethical methods, such as clinical studies, that are being used to acquire data useful in assisting human patients.
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.