The diuretic drug furosemide is well established in clinical practice as a treatment for cardiovascular and kidney disease. In mice, however, the drug produces massive liver damage. Similar effects have also been found in rats and hamsters.(1) Yet liver toxicity is not a major problem for human patients,(2) and the harmful effects in mice have been traced to a breakdown product of furosemide which is not found to any serious extent in the human body.(3) Fortunately, the effects in mice were reported after furosemide's safety in people had been determined.(3) Otherwise the drug may never have been introduced.
A comparison of human and animal test data shows that furosemide is not an isolated example. At most, only one out of every four side-effects predicted by animal tests actually occurs in people.(4) These findings suggest that reliance on animal experiments must lead to the rejection of potentially valuable medicines.
1) R.M.Walker & T.F.McElligott, Journal of Pathology, 1981, vol. l35, 301-314.
2) M.N.G.Dukes in Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs, 11th edition, Ed. M.N.G.Dukes (Elsevier, 1988).
3) M.Weatherall, Nature, 1982, April 1, 387-390.
4) A.P.Fletcher, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1978, vol.71, 693-698.
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