International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals

Study of Disease

21: Page 21

In 1928 Bridge and Henry set out similar rules for non-infectious disease, stating that epidemiological evidence must be confirmed in the laboratory before a cancer can be classified as industrial. The preference for animal experiments is so ingrained that even as late as 1964, the World Health Organization was still recommending further animal testing of tobacco smoke,34 despite overwhelming epidemiological evidence for its effects in people. Epidemiologists have argued that population studies should stand alone in assessing the causes of chronic illness.34

Drug Safety

It is well known that animal tests are very imperfect indicators of human toxicity so epidemiology has a vital role in monitoring the side effects of new drugs once they reach the market. Indeed, population studies have often come to the rescue after animal experiments have given a false sense of security. For instance, careful observation of women taking oral contraceptives revealed an increased risk of blood clots leading to heart attacks, lung disorders and strokes. The pillís estrogen content was subsequently reduced. Not only had animal tests failed to identify the hazards but in rats and dogs, high doses of estrogen had entirely the opposite effect, making it more difficult for the blood to clot.1

Epidemiology also had a major impact on the treatment of asthma. During the 1960s, at least 3500 young asthma sufferers died in the UK following the use of isoprenaline aerosol inhalers. Population studies showed that deaths occurred in countries using a particularly concentrated form of aerosol. The findings were sufficiently suggestive to change prescribing habits, with isoprenaline no longer available over the counter at drug stores. Animal tests had given no warning and even after the disaster, it proved difficult to reproduce the drugís harmful effects in the laboratory.1



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