Much of the debate over the use of animal testing in drug development is a cocktail of facts, emotions and ethics. Regulators have tried to strike a balance between these factors in the forthcoming EU Directive 2010/63/EU, but there is still considerable pressure to stop animal testing altogether. What would happen to drug development, and where would it take place, if animal testing were banned? It’s difficult to find the ‘right’ answers, particularly when rare, or orphan, diseases are involved.
Orphan diseases, affect not more than 5 in 10000 people, With some 29 million sufferers in the EU;
Read the Europe 2020 strategy and the Innovation Union policy and the message from EU policymakers is clear. Europe says it needs to be in the Premier League of scientific R&D, not just because research delivers solutions that help improve our lives, but because we want to develop and produce things that have value; things people in the US, Japan, China and elsewhere will buy from us.
Rhetoric vs reality
But what is the reality behind the rhetoric? And is Europe sending mixed signals about its support for research?
As European governments begin implementing EU rules on the use of animals in research, new figures reveal that the UK – a leading player in medical science – used more lab animals last year than at any time in the past three decades.
Some 3.8 million procedures were carried out on animals including dogs, cats, mice and monkeys last year, according to press reports.
The numbers are less important than the trend. The total figure is the highest since 1981.
Central to the debate on the use of animals in research, is the legislation that governs it. And after more than eight years of negotiations, the 1986 legislation (Directive 86/609) overseeing the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, was updated and published in September 2010.
Neil Parish MP talks through the tough policy choices during the revision of the lab animal legislation
We recently interviewed Neil Parish MP, the first reading rapporteur for the revision of law protecting lab animals. In our first video, Neil expressed the challenges he faced during this review to find the right balance between helping science advance, while protecting animals as much as possible.
Not being an expert in animal research and testing, it’s a foreign concept to me that a vet would be working at an animal research and development facility for a pharmaceutical company. But of course who better to be ensuring the welfare of lab animals? I recently spoke with the global animal welfare officer of a large pharmaceutical company, who has such a job.