Every now and then I write about animal testing and every time that I write about it, it becomes less and less justifiable and more are more unnecessary. This is because, in part, science is developing methods to test drugs on artificial human organs which quite naturally does away with the need for experiments on animals. I am putting aside for a minute the ethics of animal testing. I know it is controversial but I am convinced that any decent person will see animal testing as unethical, inhumane, unjustifiable and untenable.
Recent news puts one more nail in the coffin of drug tests on animals because most of these tests are flawed and biased say analysts.
Researchers have discovered that more than 66% of experiments carried out on animals at leading universities contain flaws. In addition, scientists engaged in animal testing may have been biased in their findings. Further, it has been said that the effectiveness of some cancer drugs might have been overstated by almost 50%. This is because the testing procedures upon which the conclusions were made were not conducted rigourously enough.
It is said that pharmaceutical companies often struggle to confirm in the real world the results of drug tests on animals which leads us to believe that the testing is inaccurate and therefore unjustified. It should be dawning upon pharmaceutical companies that the cost of inaccurate, biased and poorly conducted drug tests on animals is costing them billions.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh analysed animal studies over 70 years. They found that in only a small fraction of the overall number of experiments the scientists had taken steps to avoid bias (“blinded” the researchers). This lack of rigour was found to have taken place in drugs test on animals published in the most respected journals and coming from top universities such as Bristol and King’s College London.
One reason for the inaccuracy in drug testing in animals is that there is a need for biologists to publish positive results. I suppose that they are driven to this goal by their employers: the large pharmaceutical companies.
An example of a flawed set of animal experiments are those carried out in the development of stroke treatments: NXY and tirilazad. These drugs failed in clinical trials after showing positive results in animal experiments.
Another example of failed animal testing is in respect of sunitinib, a kidney cancer drug. Testing was carried out on mice and the effect had been exaggerated by the scientists.
Jonathan Kimmelman of McGill University in Montréal said that the early stages of research work was:
“plagued by poor design and reporting practices, exposing patients to harmful and inactive agents, wasting time in the lab and driving up the price of drugs.”
The Chief Executive of the National Centre For the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research said that it was time to stop wasting animals on inadequately robust experiments.
As mentioned, this article simply discusses the ineffectiveness of drug tests on animals. If we add to that the unethical aspect of animal drug testing we are forced to come to the conclusion that it is time to stop them and invest in more humane alternatives such as artificial organs designed specifically for testing procedures.