HYDERABAD: For each batch of novel vaccine, drugs or medicines approved and made accessible, thousands of animals are subjected to repeated testing of high doses of these chemicals, as specified by the Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rule of the government of India. Despite alternative methods of testing being available, few industries and laboratories implement these procedures.
“The protocol for scientists allows animal experimentation only in the absence of an alternative, as decided by Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) under the ministry of environment and forests, Government of India. However, the rules decided upon in 2006 have not been published yet,” says Dr Syed SYH Qadri, secretary of Laboratory Animal Scientists’ Association of India (LASA).
“There are multiple alternatives available now to research on animals. For example, instead of screening 50 molecules for prospective therapeutic molecules on as many animals, it is possible to test the efficacy of the molecules in-vitro. The organ from one animal can be extracted and applied in cell culture,” added Dr Qadri. Despite guidelines by European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), few industries follow alternative techniques instead of animal testing in India.
“The CPCSEA also requires every research institute to have an ethics committee to monitor testing on laboratory animals. Of this, one member has to be a socially-aware representative, unconnected to scientific community and one member, a nominee of the ministry. Many organizations do not follow a stringent code monitored by the committee to look into the issue of ethics in animal testing,” commented the scientist.
A conference was held on ‘Modernizing chemical safety testing and risk assessments’ at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad which looked at rethinking the treatment of animals under laboratory conditions. The conference invited Dr Thomas Hartung, Director of Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing at John Hopkins University to address new technologies which can substitute animal testing. The event was organized by Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) in collaboration with Humane Society International and Indian Pharmacological Society.