By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Today we are releasing the results of our seven-month undercover investigation at one of America’s largest animal testing laboratories. We’re asking you to join us in changing an outdated industry—animal testing—and, more immediately, in urging the release of more than 80 dogs still suffering at the lab.
Our undercover investigator worked on studies with more than 6,000 animals—including 250 dogs, 500 primates, 62 “minipigs” and more than 5,100 mice and rats—at Inotiv, a contract testing laboratory in Indiana. Inotiv has laboratories and breeding facilities in multiple states, including Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. What we saw was heartbreaking. Our investigator documented animals being force-fed high doses of drugs via tubes or intravenously, sometimes several times a day. Some animals were unable to move because of the drugs’ toxic effects; others died during procedures. The studies conducted at Inotiv were intended to test drug toxicity and were funded by dozens of pharmaceutical companies.
Most of the animals our investigator came to know didn’t make it out alive, including one beagle we call Riley, because we believe he deserves a name and not just a number. He was used to test a substance so toxic that it brought him near death after only two days of dosing. The investigator captured video showing Riley hypersalivating, trembling, vomiting and moaning on the floor, unable to stand. Our investigator tried to comfort him while he was dying, but Riley was left to suffer overnight because the veterinarian was unavailable on a weekend evening. Riley was euthanized the following day.
Other animals who died horrible deaths during our investigation were two young cynomolgus macaques who were accidentally hanged in their restraint chairs.
We documented numerous potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide adequate veterinary care, failure to minimize animal pain and distress, and failure to ensure proper staffing. We urgently reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and asked the agency to investigate these findings, but the devastating truth is that this suffering—and Riley’s fate—are simply reflections of the realities of contemporary animal testing.
Pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration have a responsibility to ensure drugs are safe for humans, but our continuing reliance on animal testing creates a false sense of security. Nearly 90% of drugs tested in animals ultimately fail in human trials, and a large proportion of these failures is attributable to unexpected toxicity in humans … even after animal tests. In what business model is such a high failure rate acceptable?
We uncovered an example of this failure. A company contracting with Inotiv ended its pursuit of a drug after encountering unexpected liver toxicity in human patients. At the same time the company decided to end the human trials, mice and primates were being dosed with the same drug at Inotiv while our investigator was there. We are hoping these tests have by now come to an end since the pharmaceutical company has stopped pursuit of this compound due to the serious adverse effects in humans.
Today, combinations of modern, non-animal methods based on human biology—such as human organs on chips and next-generation computer modeling—are increasingly providing better real-world predictions of human reactions to drugs and chemicals than some animal tests. For example, a recent study found that organ chips detected toxicity in almost seven out of eight drugs that proved toxic in patients but had cleared animal testing—an 87% success rate. But because animal testing remains the surest path to regulatory approval, it continues.
We ask that you join us in bringing the science of safety testing into the 21st century—bringing the system from low-tech and cruel to high-tech and effective. Even more urgently, we’re asking for your help in securing the release of 82 dogs still alive in the lab today.
Eighty beagle puppies are being dosed every day and may suffer the same fate as Riley if we don’t act quickly. Two additional adult beagles have been used to practice harmful procedures for years. Please join us in urging Inotiv (the testing laboratory) and Crinetics (the pharmaceutical company that hired Inotiv) to immediately end the tests and release these 82 beagles to us so that we can find them loving homes.
With your help, we’ll continue our work toward the day when invasive experiments on dogs and other animals are a thing of the past—and saving these dogs is just the start.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.