EC rejects petition calling for ban on animal studies in drug development

The European Commission has rejected a petition calling for a ban on animal studies in drug development. The petition had been signed by 1.2 million people.

According to the EC, while it agreed drug toxicity tests using animals needed to be eventually phased out, at present it was impossible to do so as scientific challenges remain.

''Where the toxicological or physiological processes and mechanisms are not sufficiently understood or are very complex, alternative solutions are often not available. Thus, the complete replacement of animal studies is currently not possible while needing to ensure a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment.''

The Commission added that although the development of replacement tests was advancing, banning animal research outright - which the Stop Vivisection European Citizens Initiative petition filed in March called for, would be premature and drive research away from Europe.

The EC also rejected the petitioners' contention that animal models were not suitable for predicting human responses and that their use hindered development of alternatives.
The Commission argued that ''animal models have been the key scientific drivers to develop almost all existing effective and safe medical treatments and prevention measures for human and animal diseases.

''In medicine development, animal models have been very effective in removing candidate medicines that could have been dangerous to humans when tested in later clinical phases.''

The move comes as animal rights groups step up efforts to persuade governments and shareholders to end its use of animals in experiments. Ahead of the recent elections in the UK, politicians were asked to pledge to end most animal research. In the US, activists had turned to shareholder resolutions to try to eliminate the use of animals.

The commission pointed out that a ban could lead to research leaving Europe. ''A premature ban of research using animals in the European Union would likely export the biomedical research and testing outside the European Union to countries where welfare standards may be lower and more animals may be needed to achieve the same scientific result,'' the commission wrote.