Institute of Medicine Report Could Spell End of Chimpanzee Experiments

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE December 15, 2011
Institute of Medicine Report Could Spell End of Chimpanzee Experiments
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Chimpanzees Not Needed to Develop HIV Vaccine or Hepatitis C Antiviral Drugs, Says Report for National Institutes of Health

UPDATE: NIH Announces Alamogordo Chimpanzees Will Stay Put for Now >

WASHINGTON—The Institute of Medicine today released a report that finds that chimpanzee experiments are not needed to develop an HIV vaccine, hepatitis C antiviral drugs, or treatments for a wide range of other human illnesses. The report underscores the need for Congress to pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. This bill would end chimpanzee experimentation in the United States, the last nation on earth still conducting large-scale experiments on humankind’s closest genetic relatives.

Experts from the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) testified before the IOM during the seven-month report process, providing evidence on the scientific and ethical problems of chimpanzee use in invasive experiments.

The report, written by a panel of scientific and medical experts convened by the IOM on behalf of the National Academy of Sciences, says that most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary. Regarding hepatitis C research, for example, the report says, “The committee finds that chimpanzees are not necessary for HCV antiviral drug discovery and development and does not foresee the future necessity of the chimpanzee model in this area.”

“It’s obviously cruel to experiment on chimpanzees, and scientifically it’s just not needed,” says John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for PCRM. “There is just no compelling scientific justification for experimenting on chimpanzees.”

Dr. Pippin, a cardiologist and former animal researcher, submitted testimony on behalf of PCRM for the IOM’s inaugural committee meeting in May. PCRM experts again testified before the IOM committee in August about the medical and ethical reasons for ending chimpanzee experimentation.

Decades of chimpanzee experiments focusing on HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases have not resulted in effective vaccines. Observational researchers have found that many of these chimpanzees held captive in laboratories and used in experiments suffer from symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In September, Scientific American called for an end to chimpanzee experiments, and others have echoed the same sentiment.

The bipartisan Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, legislation which has support in the House and Senate, would phase out chimpanzee experiments and release federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuaries. It would also save taxpayers almost a third of a billion dollars over the next decade.

The United States is the only nation still using chimpanzees in large-scale invasive research. Other nations, including the European Union and Japan, no longer permit such experiments.

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.

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