Countless numbers of patients worldwide have seen their quality of life improved thanks to innovative new medicines. The pharmaceutical industry in the UK is constantly researching and developing medicines which aim to improve the ways in which a range of conditions are treated.
By law, all new medicines must first be tested on animals, in order to ensure patient safety. When these tests have been shown to be successful, clinical trials will be conducted on humans. It is important to note that animals are only used in medical research when absolutely necessary and unavoidable, after ethical review – in situations where appropriate alternatives are not available.
The welfare of these animals is of paramount importance. Animal welfare in the UK is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. The Act states that animals used in medical research should be cared for by trained, accountable staff and housed in proper facilities. In addition, the benefits of the research should justify the use of an animal and alternatives should be used wherever possible.
The majority of the UK public supports the use of animals in medical research. According to MORI polls, over the past seven years support for animal testing has increased. Seventy-six per cent of the population believes that animal experimentation for medical research is acceptable, while a further ten per cent are neutral.
In order to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry in this country remains competitive in a global market, it is vital that it balances the importance of animal welfare with public health needs.