Intended for healthcare professionals


Role of animal experiments in assessing drug safety needs clarification

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 07 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1488
  1. Gabriel Symonds
  1. General practitioner Tokyo British Clinic, 2–13-7 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150, Japan

    EDITOR,—R J Powell's editorial on thalidomide highlights the misleading role of animal experiments in assessments of the safety of drugs for human use: “[Thalidomide] was considered a particularly safe drug, as even massive doses … failed to kill laboratory rodents.”1 Yet Powell also says that “Studies of thalidomide in people with proliferative retinopathy are awaited, but animal studies have shown no benefit.” If they have shown no benefit then why go on to human studies? Or if animal studies are not relevant to human disease then why do them?

    It seems that the error that led to the thalidomide tragedy—relying on animal experiments —is still with us today.


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