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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE November 30, 2006

Doctors Say TB Outbreak at Covance’s Wisconsin Facility Highlights Potential Danger to Chandler Residents; Infected Monkeys Were Not Detected at Compa

Risk of Transmission to Lab Personnel Is High; Disease Concerns Reinforced by New Undercover Video Showing Unsanitary and Inhumane Conditions at Asia

CHANDLER, Ariz.—Five monkeys at a Covance research facility in Madison, Wis., tested positive for tuberculosis in June of this year, according to documents recently obtained from the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection by Citizens Against Covance, and provided to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This TB outbreak contradicts Covance’s claims that its quarantine facility in Texas will prevent imported primates carrying infectious diseases from being sent to regional research facilities like the new Covance animal-testing laboratory proposed for Chandler.

These concerns are reinforced by a new undercover video shot at a monkey farm in Vietnam that supplies primates to Covance. The video, which was taken by investigators with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, reveals overcrowding and unsanitary conditions highly conducive to the spread of disease.

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious, biosafety level 3 airborne disease that can be easily transmitted from non-human primates to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease is hard to detect and can lie dormant in a host for months before it becomes symptomatic. Treatment for TB typically requires at least a six-month regimen that involves taking more than four medications at a time.

“Covance has imported monkeys infected with tuberculosis, and the company’s quarantine facility failed to detect the disease, raising the possibility that even more dangerous diseases such as the Ebola virus could reach Chandler if the new lab is built,” says Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., a public health specialist with PCRM. “Covance has not been honest with Chandler residents or public officials about this outbreak or the larger danger.”

Other critical points:

* The risk of contracting TB in those having direct contact with nonhuman primates is more than four times that of the population at large, according to studies.

* The Madison TB outbreak raises questions about whether Covance told Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn and Councilmember Sepulveda about the incident when they recently visited Covance’s Madison facility.

* Diseases that have been transmitted from nonhuman primates to humans include the human herpes virus, monkey pox, Ebola, malaria, and TB. 

* In a recent Covance filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company acknowledged “risks that animals in our breeding facilities may be infected with diseases that may be harmful and even lethal to themselves and humans despite preventive measures contained in our company policies for the quarantine and handling of imported animals.”

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:
Patrick Sullivan

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