Using animals to test new medicine for humans is not scientifically justifiable
Monkeys, dogs, rabbits, rats and mice have been used to test drugs for humans for over half a century.
Laws and regulatory agencies worldwide currently require that medicines are tested on animals before clinical trials on humans. Millions of animals are used in these cruel tests worldwide every year. Approximately 250,000 animals were used in 2016 in Britain alone. This is on top of the millions of animals used in more basic medical research.
The majority of dogs and monkeys in laboratories are used for drug safety testing. For example, 54% of all dog experiments and 81% of all monkey experiments in the UK in 2016 were for safety testing human medicines.
But until recently, scientists knew very little about whether experiments on animals are actually useful in developing drugs for humans. There is still grossly insufficient scientific evidence for these tests - a fact which is acknowledged by many in the pharmaceutical industry.
Currently 90% of drugs fail in clinical trials on humans. That's despite extensive animal tests suggesting these medicines were safe and effective.
Our scientific analysis
In 2013, we began a ground-breaking analysis of the use of animals in drug safety testing.
This has resulted in the publication of three peer-reviewed papers, which call into serious question the scientific value of using animals to test the safety of new drugs for humans.
The papers were written by FRAME Life President Professor Michael Balls, our Senior Research Scientist Dr Jarrod Bailey, and CEO Michelle Thew. They were published in the scientific journal ATLA.
They constitute the most comprehensive published analyses to date of the value of animals for predicting drug safety in humans, and are based on the largest database of animal toxicity studies yet compiled.
- The absence of toxicity in animals (dogs, rats, mice, rabbits and even monkeys) provides no significant, additional insight into whether a new medicine will also be safe for humans. This should have extremely important implications for drug development.
- Testing the effects of drugs on one animal doesn't reliably predict what would happen to any other - including humans.
- Drug tests on monkeys are just as poor as those using any other species in predicting the effects on humans.
These findings have widespread implications for the pharmaceutical industry. We are calling on companies and regulators to review their use of animals as a matter of urgency.