Thursday, April 17, 2008
As a doctor, I know that many researchers justify the use of animals in experimental research by citing their genetic similarities to humans ["In U.S., Few Alternatives to Testing on Animals," front page, April 12].
However, our shared potential for mental and physical suffering is just one reason for us to urgently seek alternatives to animal experiments.
Mice and rats used in experimentation demonstrate learned helplessness, a form of depression also seen in victims of domestic violence. Even when they are merely being handled, mice become distressed. Dogs, nonhuman primates, mice and other animals are similar to us in demonstrating fear and empathy. And what about the risk to humans? About 92 percent of all drugs that pass preclinical testing on animals fail in human clinical trials. Of the 8 percent of drugs that receive Food and Drug Administration approval, half are later withdrawn from the market or have significant side effects that were not identified during animal experimentation.
It's time to hold the feet of the federal agencies charged with safety and toxicity testing to the proverbial fire. A new promise by the U.S. government to move away from toxicity testing on animals over the next five years is a good start -- but we cannot forget the urgency involved for us and the animals.
Director of Research Policy
for Responsible Medicine