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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Medical progress put at risk by irrelevant and misleading animal research

human testsIn a response to comments in The Times on Wednesday (March 14) the Chairman of the FRAME Trustees, Professor Michael Balls, said: “The vast majority of the best medical research does not involve the use of animals, not least because, as more is revealed about animal models, it is realised that they have fundamental differences from the serious human diseases they are supposed to mimic, so the information they provide is often irrelevant and can even be dangerously misleading.”


Former Minister of Science Lord Drayson has been quoted as saying that animal rights protests have resulted in a transport blockade that will prevent research into diseases such as heart disease and cancer. In a statement in The Times he said people will ‘suffer and die’ if specially bred animals cannot be brought into the country.


Professor Balls rejects the claim that medical developments are being prevented in this way. He said: “An argument can be made that the UK’s position in the scientific world is threatened more by its failure to do sufficient to develop alternative methods and to employ them as they become available, and to commit insufficient investment to clinical research, but to choose instead to cling to the dated approaches which were the standard approach in the past.


In a recent article in FRAME’s scientific journal ATLA (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals) Professor Balls pointed out that many medical advances fail because new drugs that have passed animal tests go on to prove ineffective, or even harmful, when they enter clinical trials on humans.


He said: “Human toxicity is rarely predictable from the pharmacological actions of drugs, and the concordance between animal and human toxicity is so poor that animal studies cannot contribute effectively to the decision-making process.”


Professor Balls has written to The Times in response to Lord Drayson’s comments and the accompanying articles.  


FRAME was founded in 1969 to promote the concept of alternatives to the use of laboratory animals in medical research and toxicity testing.  Its ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures.

Archived  28 March 2012