Why I Take Animal-Tested Drugs
Posted March 4, 2009 | 01:51 PM (EST)
One of my doctors has told me to get my affairs in order, which is why I’m writing this column. I want to explain why someone who takes so many animal-tested drugs is opposed to animal research.
I have full-blown leukemia and the chemotherapy I’m taking doesn’t seem to be working all that well.
Throughout the past six years, I have felt terribly guilty about the drugs and procedures I’ve undergone because I know that so many animals have suffered in their development. I know about these conditions because of my former job — working for a nonprofit that promotes alternatives to animal research. I know about the conditions from talking with former animal researchers and others who have witnessed the cruelty. In fact, one man I know from an Internet support group remembers hearing lab dogs yelping in pain at the hospital where we both had our transplants.
But as someone who recently signed up for hospice, I have another major problem with animal research. I wonder if science would have found a cure for my leukemia by now if they weren’t sidetracked by misleading animal tests.
More than 90 percent of all new drugs which proved effective in animals end up not working for humans. It’s because animals — however similar they are to us — have different physiological systems. What works in a mouse usually doesn’t work in a human.
History is filled with stories of drugs that didn’t work in animals — Aspirin, for example — that ended up working in humans. And the obituary pages are filled with stories of people who died from drugs that looked safe in animals. The painkiller Vioxx, for example, tested safe in mice and five other species but ended up killing many thousands of Americans.
If the chemo drugs I’m trying now don’t work, I do have one last option. I could try a Phase One trial. That’s when a drug looks promising in animals and is first tested in humans. My doctor started to tell me why so many participants die in Phase One trials — but it turned out I already knew the answer. Drugs that work in animals, he explained, usually don’t work in humans.
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