Yesterday marked the beginning of World Week for Animals in Laboratories, an international week of commemoration for animals in research.
In addition to calling attention to the millions of animals who are subjected to experimentation each year, the week provides an important opportunity to consider why animal experiments don’t work and why researchers should pursue human-relevant alternatives.
Here are the top five reasons that scientists should stop relying so heavily on animal models:
- Experiments in animals do not accurately predict what happens in humans, and as a result, they produce misleading results. Approximately 60% of drugs that show promise in preclinical animal models fail in human clinical trials because of lack of efficacy. An additional 30% of drugs fail because they are toxic to people. If 90% of drugs do not work in humans after animal testing, how many potentially effective treatments did not advance to humans because they didn’t work in animals? In order to help the millions of people who need new and better treatments, scientists cannot afford to keep working with models that are not effective.
- It is expensive and time-consuming to conduct animal experiments, and it is frustrating to waste these resources on models with known limitations. Research dollars will pay much higher dividends if they are used to support the development of more human-relevant models, which can produce results faster and cheaper—and help end the unnecessary suffering of laboratory animals.
- Speaking of suffering, there are serious ethical concerns with animal experimentation. Animals can be subjected to a great deal of pain and distress during experimentation, and most are killed after the experiment ends or may die from the experimental procedure itself. Animals do not get to choose whether or not to participate in an experiment and are at the mercy of the researcher. What entitles humans to experiment on animals and inflict pain upon them?
- Animal experiments are plagued with reproducibility issues. It has been estimated that 51%-89% of animal studies are not reproducible—in large part because important details regarding the methodologies researchers use in their experiments are not included in scientific publications. It is difficult to justify the continued funding of work that cannot be reproduced.
- Importantly, investments in animal-free alternatives are paying huge dividends. Recent studies have shown that computer models are better than animal models in predicting adverse drug effects and chemical toxicity. Researchers have also created a human body-on-a-chip model comprised of 10 different organs-on-chips. This model has the potential to reduce animal use in many areas of research.
Just because researchers have historically relied on animal experiments does not mean they need to continue to do so.
The failure of the animal model to accurately predict results in humans is encouraging animal advocates such as NAVS to advance smarter research methodologies that will provide better, safer and more effective solutions to human health problems—without harming animals.
Help NAVS support the advancement of smarter, human-relevant science that does not harm animals by making a donation today.