Study Highlights Concerns Over Need To Test Drugs On Dogs

Dogs around the world are being needlessly tested in preclinical trials for human drugs, claims a study that has found that the predictive success of testing on dogs is often little better than chance. 

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust donated £10,000 in 2007 to help fund the study by FRAME and the BUAV, which has re-analysed past research into the use of dogs in drug testing. The study has found that canines are an unreliable indicator of whether substances will be safe for humans, yet in Europe and the USA approximately 90,000 dogs are used annually.

FRAME and the BUAV have undertaken the most comprehensive analysis to date of the predictive value of the dog as a non-human animal model, for toxicity testing in humans. The study analysed data from 2,366 publicly-available toxicological studies that used dogs and asked whether the use of dogs contributes significant weight to the evidence for or against dog studies predicting the toxicity of a given compound in humans. The findings show that canine models are highly inconsistent predictors of toxic responses in humans.

An estimated 92 to 94 percent of drugs that pass preclinical tests fail in human clinical trials, and around half of those that do pass are later withdrawn or relabelled because of adverse effects not predicted by animal tests. The failure rate is costly, both to the pharmaceutical industry and in terms of human safety and animal welfare. 

Legislation around the world currently requires experiments on animals prior to clinical trials taking place on humans to ensure that drugs are safe.  In Europe and the USA, two species are required and in 80 percent of studies, a dog is the second species chosen for the testing.

Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust said: "These findings cannot be ignored, they raise numerous questions about the use of dogs in drug toxicity testing. Tens of thousands of dogs are subject to drug testing every year, but with a failure rate in human trials estimated to be more than 90 percent it is clear that these tests are not achieving what is expected or required and are putting dogs through extremely stressful situations."

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, FRAME and the BUAV hope these findings will encourage the pharmaceutical industry and other stakeholders to engage fully in constructive discussion and debate and to increase the search for more reliable testing methods not involving the use of animals.

FRAME Life President Professor Michael Balls, and Dr Jarrod Bailey and Michelle Thew from the BUAV have produced a paper following the study which will be published in FRAME's scientific journal ATLA (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals).

The paper states that: "A comprehensive suite of more reliable alternative methods is now available. Combined with considerable public concern over the use of dogs in science, the high ethical costs of doing so, given the sensitive nature of dogs and the expressed desire for the use of dogs as a second species in drug testing to have a scientific, rather than a habitual basis, we conclude that preclinical testing of pharmaceuticals in dogs cannot currently be justified on scientific or ethical grounds."

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Animal testing
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