Many millions of people worldwide benefit from the latest advances in medical science, which bring them new life-saving and life-enhancing medicines. None of this would be possible without the use of animals in research.
If the Stop Vivisection European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which will be heard in the European Parliament later today, were successful, the discovery and development of new medicines in Europe would be halted in its tracks.
Animal research has played an important role in the development of nearly all medicines we take for granted today. For example, tests in mice were central to the development of penicillin in the first half of the twentieth century. However, the role of animals in producing new medicines is not yet a thing of the past. Whilst great advances have been made in in vitro techniques and computer models, the complexity of the human body with multiple layers of interactions between cells, tissues, and organs, means it cannot yet be fully modelled by these methods. Therefore animals continue to play a critical role in the discovery and development of medicines.
Monoclonal antibody therapies, such as Herceptin, have revolutionised cancer treatment in recent years. These medicines recognise and attach to specific proteins on cancer cells, then either trigger the patient’s own immune system to attack them, carry drugs which destroy them, or block further cell division. Animals have played, and continue to play, vital roles in the development of these cutting-edge medicines, from the identification of the cancer cell target proteins, to the production the antibodies, to the safety tests which must be carried out before they can be given to humans. The European Directive 2010/63/EU, which the ECI seeks to repeal, is central in facilitating such research.
No one wants to use animals in research when they don’t have to, and the bio-pharmaceutical industry in the UK is committed to reducing and ultimately replacing the use of animals in scientific research. They also take the welfare of animals in their care incredibly seriously. The European Directive 2010/63/EU is leading to improved animal welfare standards across Europe and commits researchers to make every effort to seek alternatives. For these reasons, the ABPI, EFPIA, and many member companies have signed the joint statement in support of the Directive in advance of today’s hearing. Repealing this Directive would not only halt the development of new life saving medicines in the EU, but would also not support the aims of the 3Rs to replace, refine and reduce the way animals are used in research.
Dr Virginia Acha
Executive Director – Research, Medical and Innovation (RM&I)