Posts tagged Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

AMONG THE ANIMALS: UW to broaden animal testing

The human-body simulator (like the one at University of Washington) being used for training. (Photo courtesy of Laerdal Medical)

The human-body simulator (like the one at University of Washington) being used for training. (Photo courtesy of Laerdal Medical)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News and City Living Seattle

November 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The University of Washington (UW) is an integral part of our Seattle community as the professional home of researchers and medical doctors. Since we support them with donations and federal funds, their actions reflect upon our community, particularly with regard to the use of animals.

Unfortunately, recent issues have highlighted incongruities between UW’s stated goals to use animals responsibly and decisions made by certain medical instructors and the UW Regents.

In October, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine organized a physician-led protest to bring awareness to UW’s paramedic training program, which uses 31 pigs each year to teach paramedics, paramedic students and Airlift flight nurses how to manage obstructed airways in trauma patients. The pigs are anesthetized, used for training and then euthanized.

This is an unnecessary use of animals, and the UW has a human-body simulator, known as the SimMan 3G, which is already used to teach medical students, graduate physicians and trauma physicians this procedure (and many other procedures) without the use of animals.

Dr. John Pippin, the Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, explains that of the 11 surveyed paramedic training programs in the Pacific Northwest, 10 use human simulators instead of live animals, with UW being the holdout.

Additionally, using pigs constitutes a sub-standard educational method. Students trained with human simulators benefit from learning this skill on a replicated human rather than pig anatomy, and a human simulator can be used repetitively to optimize training, so students are not limited to practicing a few times on pigs.

“It’s the decision of the instructor,” UW Medicine spokesperson Tina Mankowski stated, but Pippin explained that the decision is simply wrong and paramedic students are missing out on human-relevant training.

(To encourage UW’s transition to human-centered, animal-friendly training, visit the Physicians Committee website at www.pcrm.org.)

Broadening animal research

An entrenched approach to animal use appears to be affecting other UW decisions, as well. In 2013, the UW Board of Regents approved a new Animal Research and Care Facility (ARCF) to centralize animal labs on campus. According to David Anderson, executive director of Health Science Administration, UW intends to grow its primate-research capacity with the new ARCF.

Our community was left out of decisions about the ARCF and its impact on animals, according to Amanda Schemkes, director of the group Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing.

Schemkes has sued the UW, claiming failure to comply with Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act. The act states that public commissions and boards (such as the UW Regents) “exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business” and that actions and deliberations be conducted openly.

Yet, documents obtained by Schemkes show that the UW Regents allegedly discussed and agreed to support the ARCF at a dinner meeting before the public meeting. Don’t Expand UW Primate Testing’s lawsuit seeks the Regents’ decision to build the ARCF to be voided and to allow time for the community and the Regents to educate themselves about the realities of primate testing.

Animals in research labs suffer considerably as a result of being used as a tool rather than treated as a soul. Many endure lethal exposure to toxic chemicals or have mechanical devices implanted in eyes and brains. Some primates live in small, solitary cages most of their lives.

In the last decade, UW has received multiple USDA citations and fines for failure to care for animals and for performing unauthorized surgeries.

‘Slowing medical progress’

There is a growing voice in the medical community that animal testing is inherently flawed and slows medical progress by placing a hyper-focus on animal use, instead of developing human-relevant alternatives such as cell cultures for toxicity testing and organ-on-a-chip technology for systems-level biology tests.

Also, animal experiments are shown to be unreliable, according to John J. Pippins’ 2013 “Animals Research in Medical Sciences,” since up to 96 percent of drugs successfully tested in animals fail in human clinical trials, while dangerous drugs sometimes gain FDA approval. Furthermore, some chronic diseases have no cures or effective treatments despite decades of animal experiments.

Yet, in 2014, UW received $423 million in taxpayer funds through the National Institutes of Health, much of which supports animal testing. A diversion away from research on animals could mean a loss of these funds, and “the animal research portfolio accounts for over 35 percent of research activity,” according to UW documents.

Although Anderson assures that all animal testing is reviewed for necessity, the UW’s plans to increase primate testing — rather than to set institutional goals to intentionally reduce animal testing overall — is not an ethical use of taxpayer funds. So, while there may be little monetary motivation to reduce animal testing, there is certainly a moral and scientific prerogative, since increasing primate testing inherently diverts funds from human-relevant research methods and subverts the rights of animals to be free from cruelty and mutilation.

The goal of using and seeking alternatives to animal use is not to block progress but to advance scientific discovery and training that will directly apply to human physiology. Furthermore, human progress is not just evaluated by our advancements in medical science but is also measured by our intentional evolution of the ethical treatment of animals.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (livinghumane.com), a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles.

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Let’s end the practice of animal testing

Claudine Erlandson (left) and Amy Webster protest outside the SNBL in Everett.

Claudine Erlandson (left) and Amy Webster protest outside the SNBL in Everett.

By Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

August 2, 2013

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The practice of testing cosmetics, medications, procedures or treatments on non-human animals can be a truly disturbing topic, and it is one that recently made headlines all over the world.

This year, the European Union (EU) and the country of India banned the sale of all cosmetics that have been tested on animals, thereby shunning the practice as unacceptable. The EU furthered its commitment to avoid the practice by contributing 238 million Euros (about $308 million USD) to fund alternatives to animal testing.

Similarly, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced the release of more than 300 chimpanzees held in medical laboratories, although 50 chimps will remain. The United States and Gabon are the only two countries that still test on chimpanzees, but this release is a step in the right direction.

Back in Seattle, animals subjected to medical or cosmetic testing have not been so lucky. The University of Washington (UW) regularly tests medical procedures on primates, rabbits, mice and pigs. The university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) reviews these experiments. These meetings are open to the public, and local resident Claudine Erlandson has been attending IACUC meetings for 25 years, “to keep a watchful eye on the activities of these researchers.

“It can be quite disturbing sometimes,” Erlandson said, “because they are not just performing one experiment on one animal. Often, the same monkey will undergo multiple experiments, repeatedly.”

Erlandson takes careful notes and recounted how pain medication is sometimes not used for the animals undergoing experiments.

Not subject to review

Extensive animal testing also occurs at the Everett-based Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories (SNBL), where they test on young primates and household dogs. This private facility is not subject to review by public committee but has been noted for egregious practices such as “fail[ing] to implement standard operating procedures in laboratory study methods that are adequate to insure the quality and integrity of the data” and “fail[ing] to adequately inspect, clean and maintain equipment,” according to a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Naturally, concerned citizens who see no purpose to test on animals frequently protest SNBL — especially when study results are suspect.

Many people assume that animal testing is necessary to further medical research or to protect consumers. The EU and India have shown that the alternatives to animal testing are plentiful for consumer products.

Similarly, bioengineers, including Harvard researchers at the Wyss Institute, have developed “organ-on-a-chip” technology, where microscope slides are fitted with living human cells from the lungs, heart or the intestines.

“To test a drug, the researchers simply add a solution of the compound to the chip and see how the intestinal (or heart or lung) cells react,” writes Sebastian Anthony on ExtremeTech.com (June 2012).

Misleading research

Medical research on animals has also been shown to be misleading or to provide data that is not applicable to human physiology, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (pcrm.org).

Seattle resident Amy Webster knows this story all too well. Last November, Webster began a battle with breast cancer that she eventually won with the help of the drug Taxol.

“Taxol — a powerful chemo drug which I was given — was pulled off the market for many years because it was ineffective in treating the cancer we infected animals with. Yet, today doctors and scientists regard it as one of the most effective drugs in curing cancer in humans. I’m an example of its effectiveness,” Webster explained.

Webster points to the American Breast Cancer Foundation, Keep A Breast Foundation, Breast Cancer Fund and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation as examples of organizations that do research on treating cancer without the use of animals.

Making conscious choices

Consumers have the choice to avoid supporting animal testing. The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics at LeapingBunny.org lists cruelty-free companies providing everything from household products to pet supplies. The list is expansive, and we have lots of options to avoid animal testing if we simply make the choice to do so.

Several Seattle-based companies are listed on leapingbunny.org, including Polish Cosmetics in Ballard. Founder and owner Laura A. Fahey explains that her line of handcrafted eye shadows are both vegan and not tested on animals, as well as certified by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (peta.org).

“We have centuries of information on the ingredients we use. We find new ways to combine them for a quality product,” Fahey said.

It is time to end the practice of experimenting on the most vulnerable members of our community: animals. Supporting the alternatives in both medical and product research may require that each of us make conscious choices about the products we buy and the organizations we support.

But the result of those choices is a world where medical data is applicable to humans and where we no longer struggle to resolve the ethical incompatibility of animal testing with our inherent love of animals.

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