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Study casts doubt on efficacy of chimpanzee research

Chimpanzee Research: An Examination of Its Contribution to Biomedical Knowledge and Efficacy in Combating Human Diseases evaluated claims of the necessity of chimpanzee experimentation by assessing the importance of such research to published scientific papers reporting data obtained from it, and if cited, the contribution that research made to human clinical progress and practice.

Between 1995 and 2004 inclusive, 749 studies involving captive chimpanzees were published; 95 were randomly selected and reviewed to determine how often they were cited by subsequent papers.

Of this sample, 49.5% had not been cited at all by other scientific papers. A further 35.8% were cited only by papers that did not describe well-developed prophylactic, diagnostic or therapeutic methods for combating human diseases.

Only 14.7% of the random sample of chimpanzee studies were cited - specifically, 14 papers were cited by 27 subsequent papers. An in-depth analysis of these studies revealed that the chimpanzee experiments had contributed precious little, if anything at all, to the outcome of those papers reporting advances in human clinical practice.

For example, the chimpanzee studies had been conducted concurrently to human studies or to “confirm” previous human investigations; the results from them conflicted with results in other non-human primates or in human trials; the cited chimpanzee studies were peripheral to the human clinical study and/or cited purely as points of information; they illustrated historical findings with no direct relevance to current practice; or, the chimpanzee findings were purely speculative in nature.

Rather, the methods in those 27 papers that were pivotal to the development of human prophylactic, diagnostic or therapeutic methods included: in vitro studies, human clinical and epidemiological studies, molecular assays and methods, and genomic studies.

Specific areas of chimpanzee use in research are currently being systematically reviewed.

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