Testing on animals is not effective: 90% of drugs that ‘pass’ end up failing on humans (interview)

Testing on animals is not effective: 90% of drugs that 'pass' end up failing on humans
A monkey used for tests of coronavirus vaccine, June 2020, Thailand, photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

“We were surprised that animal testing, using millions of animals, had gone on for 60 years and yet there was nothing published that proved that animal tests were scientifically justifiable,” says Jarrod Bailey, director Science and Technology at the Center for Contemporary Sciences.  

At the beginning of his career, the animal ethics expert thought of experimenting on animals as a necessary evil. As he progressed as a researcher, he started doubting whether it was helpful to conduct such tests on animals.

“Our main finding was that when something looks to be safe or free from toxic effects in animals, it tells you next to nothing. Nothing at all about how likely that drug is to be safe in humans”, Bailey says. “Those evidential (animal) data are providing no evidential weight towards the likelihood of the drug being safe in humans, and that’s a big finding.”

Ninety percent of drugs that pass animal tests end up failing on humans. And from those pharmaceutical drugs that do go through, most end up having warnings labeled on them because of their harmful effects. Some may also be withdrawn from the market due to unforeseen safety issues, Bailey shares with The Animal Reader.

“It means that not only do we have to accept that animal models are bad models for humans, but we also have to accept that animal models can never be good reliable models for humans because of their genetic differences,” he says.

Bailey suggests that better science could be developed to save over two hundred million animals that are currently in laboratories worldwide. He suggests that continuing with the practice of using animals as models is never going to give any results. This includes recreating mutations or modifying their genes to get better results.

“Currently, over 200,000 dogs every year are used in research around the world. And over 160,000 monkeys”, he says, next to the millions of rats, mice, rabbits, ferrets, frogs, guinea pigs, cats, fish and birds.

Human-based models are better predictors of effectiveness
Baileys strongly advises that we need to accept this increasing evidence of failure in animal experiments and start looking at other ways to test the effectiveness of vaccines and drugs.

“As a matter of urgency, we have to embrace some of the amazing human-specific technologies that science has now made available to researchers. We can do amazing things in clinical research with human volunteers, patients, with scanning machines with genomic and proteomic analysis”, Bailey says.

“We have techniques like organ on a chip, body on a chip where something the size of your phone can contain different types of human organs with circulatory systems. Micro-dosing is one of those techniques that can work alongside all of the others and tell us all we need to know about a new drug without any need to scratch our heads and wonder if our rat data is relevant to humans,” he adds.

Bailey sees change coming in the new generation of scientists: “We know that a lot of younger people are astounded by the fact that we still test things on animals and still try and fool ourselves that it is relevant to human safety.” 

Watch the full interview with Dr. Jarrod Bailey here:

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