Drugs in development no longer have to pass animal tests before moving to human trials in the USA, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed earlier this year.
The move comes as part of the FDA Modernization Act 2.0, signed in by President Biden in December 2022. It was designed to remove hurdles to getting life-saving medicine on the market more quickly, while also reducing animal suffering.
Animal rights groups, including Cruelty Free International (CFI), PETA, and the Humane League, have long called for such tests to end. Alongside, some members of the scientific community have questioned the validity of animal testing, calling it unreliable. Indeed, CFI conducted in-depth research revealing up to 92 percent of drugs that pass animal tests fail at human stage.
Republican senator Rand Paul sponsored the modernization bill alongside vegan senator Cory Booker. In a statement, Paul seemingly referenced the unreliability of animal experiments. Saying that the new law will end the “needless suffering and death of animal test subjects,” he went on to reveal his hope that it will also “get safer, more effective drugs to market more quickly by cutting red tape that is not supported by current science.”
Animal tests still not banned
While PETA et al. are celebrating the FDA Modernization Act as a victory, animal testing is not yet banned outright.
While there is no mandatory animal testing requirement anymore, individual manufacturers can make their own choices regarding drug assessments. It is hoped that most, if not all, will seek out modern and demonstrably more reliable and less cruel methods. This includes in vitro tests using human cells, and computer modeling.
Similar testing styles are being looked at by transportation companies as well. This follows last year’s recognition by the US Department of Transport that shaved rabbit skin testing is archaic and unreliable.
Some support remains
Not everyone is in support of dropping mandatory animal experiments.
The National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), in particular, continues to promote using animals in the name of medical progress.
“[Animal testing, alongside human trials] remains the best way to examine complex physiological, neuroanatomical, reproductive, developmental and cognitive effects of drugs to determine if they are safe and effective for market approval,” the NABR said in a statement.
Despite this claim, the 2023 federal budget set aside $5 million for an FDA program designed to reduce reliance on animal tests. It is assumed that the initiative will focus on the promotion and development of dependable alternatives.