The pharmaceutical industry is at the forefront of the practical implementation of the 3Rs of reducing the number of animals used, refining the procedures to minimise discomfort, and to replacing animals with other methods wherever possible - although its efforts in these respects were not well recognised by the APC reports.
"However, the fact remains that it is still necessary to use animals in the course of developing new medicines - no regulatory authority would allow a company to license a medicine that had not gone through this process," said Andrew Curl, Deputy Director General of the ABPI.
"What we can and do achieve is to use animals only when strictly necessary, and with their welfare top of the agenda. At the same time - as the chairman of the Animals Procedures Committee recognised at the launch meeting - the industry is the prime developer of alternatives to the use of animals."
The industry's achievements in this area mean that the ABPI supports the recommendation that alternatives to the use of animals must be further developed. The industry is already engaged in a vigorous search for ways in which the use of animals in research can be reduced through discovering and developing alternative methods.
The second of the two reports - a review of cost-benefit assessment for the use of animals - suggests the project licence should be simplified and that the use of alternatives is properly considered. This reflects the report by the House of Lords earlier this year which also noted that the UK system is over-bureaucratic. The industry supports proposals to simplify the system without lessening the safeguards for animal welfare.
The importance of animal research was highlighted in this report, where a study showed that 71 per cent of the adverse effects found in human clinical trials were predicted in the preceding animal studies. The existence of this data makes unnecessary the call in the committee's parallel report for a special review to provide this information.
The other APC report - on the use of primates - recommended the establishment of a stakeholders' forum to discuss the issue and take various recommendations forward. This proposal has already been accepted by the Government, and the ABPI looks forward to contributing to discussions in this area.
"We share the objectives of the committee in wanting to reduce the use of Animals and Medicines Research as much as possible," said Mr Curl. "However, the truth is that we cannot yet develop medicines without using them - non-animal testing, including computer modelling, is still a long way from the stage where we can predict what will happen to a compound when it is put into a living body."
Note to Editors
The full text of the two reports, The use of primates under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986) and a Review of cost-benefit assessment in the use of animals in research, can be found on the Home office website.