Animal Rights Advocates Point To Dr. Oz’ Dark Past As Reason For Banning Animal Testing
Television personality and Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of the more recognizable names in medicine, but lately not the most respected.
According to Jezebel, between 1989 to 2010, Dr. Oz conducted experiments that led to the deaths of over 300 dogs, 31 pigs and 661 rabbits and rodents, while serving as a principal investigator at a Columbia University lab.
The details of these experiments came to light about a week after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, eliminating a federal mandate in the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that requires animal testing for new drugs. If the House passes the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, it will become a law and permit drug developers to use alternative methods to test for safety.
What the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 does not do is outlaw animal testing, despite studies showing how inaccurate and misleading the results of such tests can be in the context of human medicine.
The Humane Society estimates that over 50 million animals are used in laboratory experiments every year in the U.S. The Animal Welfare Act extends protections to some species, but as the ASPCA details, violations routinely occur, and most animals involved in pharmaceutical testing are not covered, according to Scientific Reports.
The Humane Society has found that the animals in these experiments are exposed to toxic chemicals or diseases and imprisoned in barren cages. Further reports show that ” target=”_blank”>most of the animals are killed when the experiments are completed.
There are still arguments for testing on animals to advance medical developments and treatments in humans. As Brian Kateman, cofounder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation and professor of environmental science and sustainability, writes for NBC News, there have been important discoveries throughout history in which animal research was involved.
An effective treatment for diabetes was discovered In 1921 when researchers Frederick G. Banting, Charles Best and John Macleod injected insulin into laboratory dogs who had their pancreatic ducts tied. Penicillium’s benefits were discovered in 1939 when scientists infected mice with a virulent strain of Streptococcus and then treated half with the experimental antibiotic. In 1953, Jonas Salk used a virus grown on monkey kidney cells to produce a vaccine for polio.
There have also been instances where substances that have not been first tested on animals at all or thoroughly enough, have made it onto the market despite posing great threats to humans. Thalidomide is one of the most well known examples, having led to birth defects in thousands of children after being released on the market.
According to CBC, an estimated 24,000 babies were born with thalidomide-induced malformations worldwide, and 123,000 stillbirths and miscarriages were caused by the drug.
The reports show that Thalidomide had not been tested on pregnant animals. If it were and the offspring of those animals shown to have similar defects, these tragedies could have potentially been averted. However, despite the arguments for animal testing, there is still evidence that it may hinder medical progress more than help.
As Kateman points out, many of the experiments involving the use of animals “are so poorly designed that their results are meaningless.”
“One analysis found that among 2,671 papers from 1992 to 2011 that reported trials in animals, randomization was not reported in 75% of them, blinding was absent in 70%, and fewer than 1% and 12% had sample-size calculations and conflict of interest statements, respectively — all factors that can lead to inaccurate results,” he writes.
Moreover, a 2004 FDA report found that 92% of drugs that pass the animal testing stage are ultimately abandoned because the test results do not hold up in humans.
“It may reasonably be stated that most medical advances have included animal experimental use; for decades, this has been the default approach. But it has not been demonstrated that such animal use has been essential or even reliable for medical advancement,” says Dr. John J. Pippin, director of academic affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and reformed animal experimenter.
There’s no denying that the body of a human is different from that of a dog, pig, or mouse. Those differences can lead to inaccuracies in medical testing that studies show pose a greater risk than ignoring the test data altogether.
This risk is unacceptable in a world with alternative testing approaches more aligned with human biology.
There are multiple technologies that can help researchers deliver more accurate risk assessments and meet existing safety levels, while contributing to a more humane drug system.
Advanced data computing was posited as a solution in a 2018 Johns Hopkins study that described how algorithms in a large chemical database could predict a new chemical’s toxic properties better than tests on animals.
Other options that are showing promise include organs-on-a-chip, or “organoids,” according to Science Direct, which help researchers model of human physiology and disease and evaluate the impacts of drugs in real time; stem cells; 3D printing; and biological samples left over from clinical procedures, such as surgery, or from dead bodies in “biobanks.”
According to a 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans do not support the practice of using animals in experiments. Help us amplify that sentiment and ask policy makers to take action.
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