Friday 21 April 2006

Animals in Medical Research

I've never personally used animals in any of my research (although I must have butchered a few billion yeast in my time!), but I do support their use. The issue is particularly heated in Oxford as the University is building a new animal house and there are a lot of protests against it. In order to show my support for the medical research, I went on the Pro-Test march a few weeks ago (see pic).

I think the thing that annoys me the most about the anti-vivisetionists is their intimidatory tactics and the lies that they use to promote their message. On the other hand, most of the animal rights movement has been positive, with the result that the UK has the most stringent animal research laws in the world. I noticed on the RDS Blog (of the Research Defence Society) that an online petition has been set up for ordinary people to register their support for animals to be used in medical research. I will be signing it, and I hope that anyone reading this post will consider signing it too. The petition can be found here.

Also, I noticed that the dubiously-named 'Europeans for Medical Progress' had written into my home newspaper, the Dundee Courier.

From the Courier (19/04/2006):

Drugs trials support

Sir,—Angus Ramsay (April 12) says an inquiry into the recent drug-trial disaster is needed.

Patient-safety group, Europeans for Medical Progress, agrees.

We believe a vital part of any inquiry should be a comparison of animal tests with microdosing, sophisticated human tissue tests, such as those conducted by Glasgow-based Biopta, and other state-of-the-art methods of predicting human safety.

The six unfortunate men in the drug trial were reassured that TGN1412 was safe because it was safe in animals.

Withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx caused hundreds of thousands of heart attacks and strokes, after animal tests had predicted it would be good for the heart.

The truth is that superior human-based tests could have predicted the effects of both TGN1412 and Vioxx, where animal tests failed so tragically.
Kathy Archibald.
Europeans for Medical Progress,
PO Box 38604,

'Somebody' notified the RDS of this, who published the following letter in the Courier two days later (today):

Animal tests still necessary

Sir,—Europeans for Medical Progress describe themselves (April 19) as a patient-safety group but they are nothing of the sort.

They are an anti-vivi section organisation who make ill-founded claims about the scientific validity of animal research.

These claims were recently debunked by the Advertising Standards Authority who upheld five complaints against a leaflet they distributed under a previous name, Europeans for Medical Advancement.

In their letter, they claim that “superior human-based tests could have predicted the effects of both TGN 1412 and Vioxx, where animal tests failed so tragically”.

In fact, human-based methods are already part of the research process and would have been used in these cases.

Microdosing is a potentially valuable tool indicating how drugs are metabolised by the body, but it does not provide information on toxicity.

EMP give no indication as to how a microdose would be determined in the absence of animal data — the human volunteers were given doses 500 times lower than that given to the monkeys, a microdose by anyone’s standards.

And some substances are so toxic that what might be estimated to be a microdose could still be lethal to a volunteer, for example, ricin, which is also toxic to animals and so would not pass the animal research stage.

TGN 1412 is a relatively a new kind of drug.

When we have studied more drugs of this type— and this will include animal studies—we will have information to better predict their action, and better computer modelling of their effects.

Until then, for the safety of human volunteers, we must use all tools available including animal research.
Robin Wilkinson.
RDS: Understanding Animal Research in Medicine,
25 Shaftesbury Avenue,

Good stuff!

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