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Covance Preparing to Build Testing Facility in Arizona

desert landscapeCovance, one of the world’s largest contract testing companies, is preparing to build a 400,000 square foot testing facility in Chandler, Ariz. The facility, which would sit on 38 acres of land, would be used for animal experiments and chemical testing. Local citizens worry that it could threaten the health of the citizens of Chandler.

At other facilities, Covance workers have been extremely cruel to animals, especially monkeys. Undercover video footage shows Covance workers violently throwing monkeys into cages, stuffing them into plastic restraint tubes, and yelling and swearing in their faces. Animals undergoing even routine lab procedures show marked stress responses, recent studies have shown.

Animal tests are poor predictors of the safety and efficacy of a drug in humans. In fact, in August 2004, the Food and Drug Administration stated that 92 percent of drugs that were found to be safe and effective in animals proved either ineffective or unsafe in humans and were never approved. But even drugs that are approved because they were shown to be safe in animals can be very dangerous to people. Drugs like Vioxx, Phenacetin, and Oraflex were deemed to be safe and effective by animal tests but caused serious harm to thousands of people.

“Non-animal methods work better,” says Arizona physician Deborah Wilson, M.D. Wilson points to the fact that in January the FDA announced that it will rely more on nonanimal methods and allow drug companies to use microdosing, which will produce more accurate results. Wilson also noted that the private sector is moving toward non-animal methods. Drug development company Pharmagene uses computer models based on our knowledge of genetics and molecular biology to find out how different drugs would affect the body. Gordon Baxter, cofounder of Pharmagene, once asked, “If you have information on human genes, what's the point of going back to animals?”

The Covance facility could also have serious health effects for Chandler citizens. In 1989, a Covance facility had to be evacuated when several research monkeys were discovered to be infected with the Ebola virus. Eventually, the facility had to be destroyed. And while Covance calls itself a pharmaceutical developer, it provides a variety of toxicology services, including chemical testing. The testing process can involve infectious diseases, animal wastes, animal carcasses, and toxic chemicals. The proposed facility site is one mile from a junior high school and borders Native American land.


PCRM Online, March 2006

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