Despite Tony Blair's public support for animal experimentation, he is now under pressure from a clear majority of back-bench MPs who want an independent scientific evaluation of animal tests.
This comes as no surprise in the wake of the catastrophic clinical trial at Northwick Park hospital that left six healthy volunteers fighting for their lives. The young men were given the new drug TGN1412 because it was shown to be safe in monkeys.
The animal tests created a false sense of security – and not for the first time: painkiller Vioxx was shown to be good for the heart in animal tests but caused as many as 320,000 heart attacks and strokes (140,000 of them fatal) – the biggest drug disaster in history. The devastating effects of both of these drugs could have been revealed in tests on human tissue. Yet these sophisticated tests are not required in order to licence a drug, while animal tests are.
250 MPs have joined a striking majority of GPs who also want animal tests scrutinised. They have signed Early Day Motion 92, which does not seek to ban any animal tests but simply to assess their scientific value, in the interests of public safety.
Says Science Director of Europeans for Medical Progress, Dr Jarrod Bailey, "The Government's claim that only a minority of extremists doubt the value of animal tests is clearly nonsense: most MPs and nearly all GPs agree that animal tests must prove their worth: people's lives are at stake. The Government must act now to protect the public from another TGN1412 or Vioxx in future."