$150M spent on tests that hurt an­i­mals, don’t help hu­mans

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

Sci­ence or sadism? The Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse and sev­eral other fed­eral health agen­cies have handed out hun­dreds of mil­lions of tax dol­lars on nu­mer­ous stud­ies to test the ef­fects of recre­ational drug use on an­i­mals, tor­tur­ing and killing count­less mice, rab­bits and mon­keys with no ap­par­ent ben­e­fit to med­i­cal sci­ence, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from a watch­dog group and an­i­mal rights or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Some of the most egre­gious ex­am­ples, th­ese crit­ics say, in­clude $9.6 mil­lion to in­ject LSD into the brains of rab­bits to de­ter­mine whether the drug caused an in­crease in eye blinks and head­bob­bing; $7.6 mil­lion to in­ves­ti­gate whether psy­che­delic drugs cause the heads of mice to twitch; $1.5 mil­lion to de­ter­mine whether meth is toxic to mice brains; $1.1 mil­lion to see if meth-ad­dicted mon­keys would choose food over the drug; and a $709,981 study to de­ter­mine if “lonely rats are more likely to be­come ad­dicted to drugs.

Ac­cord­ing to a new re­port coau­thored by the Tax­pay­ers Pro­tec­tion Al­liance and the An­i­mal Jus­tice Project, tax­pay­ers have spent over $150 mil­lion fund­ing 95 ex­per­i­ments — some span­ning decades — re­lated to the ef­fects of recre­ational drug use on an­i­mals, pur­port­edly to gain in­sights into how such drugs af­fect hu­man be­hav­ior and health.

But de­spite the high price tag, the re­searchers car­ry­ing out the ex­per­i­ments were sub­ject to no over­sight to pro­duce re­sults, and any re­sults that did come of the ques­tion­able ex­per­i­ments ap­pear to be of no value to hu­man health, the crit­ics say. “Mice are not hu­mans, and tests on an­i­mals of­ten fail to mimic hu­man dis­eases or pre­dict how the hu­man body re­sponds to new drugs,” Don Ing­ber, found­ing di­rec­tor of Har­vard Univer­sity’s Wyss In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cally In­spired En­gi­neer­ing, said in the re­port.

“The NIH should be re­search­ing can­cer, Ebola, Alzheimer’s, and in­stead they are wast­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on re­search that doesn’t need to take place,” said David Wil­liams, pres­i­dent of the Tax­pay­ers Pro­tec­tion Al­liance. “Once you get past the cru­elty to an­i­mals, you just have an ab­so­lute waste of money. This is just un­nec­es­sary spend­ing.”

For spend­ing mil­lions of tax­pay­ers dol­lars on nu­mer­ous recre­ational drug stud­ies that are harm­ful to an­i­mals and likely not help­ful to hu­mans, NIH wins this week’s Golden Ham­mer, a weekly dis­tinc­tion awarded by The Wash­ing­ton Times high­light­ing the most egre­gious ex­am­ples of waste­ful fed­eral spend­ing.

“When you look at some of th­ese pro­pos­als that NIH funds, you have to won­der if some­one has been per­son­ally test­ing the psy­chotrop­ics rather than just giv­ing them to poor un­sus­pect­ing an­i­mals,” said Richard Man­ning, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Lim­ited Gov­ern­ment.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s NIH “should name this the ‘Ti­mothy Leary time ma­chine project,’” Mr. Man­ning added. “The idea of our fed­eral gov­ern­ment test­ing co­caine, meth and psy­che­delic drugs on an­i­mals should make tax­pay­ers’ heads twitch — it is such an egre­gious waste.”

NIH and NIDA did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. The grants are a small part of the over­all $30 bil­lion NIH re­search bud­get. Ac­cord­ing to the agency, more than 80 per­cent of its fund­ing is dis­trib­uted through al­most 50,000 com­pet­i­tive grants to more than 2,500 uni­ver­si­ties, med­i­cal schools and other re­search in­sti­tu­tions around the coun­try and around the world.

Sci­en­tists who con­duct recre­ational drug tests on an­i­mals ar­gue that such stud­ies help them de­ter­mine the health ef­fects of com­monly abused drugs and may pro­vide use­ful insight to im­prove drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams for hu­man ad­dicts.

But other re­searchers ar­gue that re­sults pro­duced in an­i­mals are not al­ways ap­pli­ca­ble to hu­man pa­tients.

Sev­eral of the stud­ies high­lighted in the re­port proved to be a to­tal bust and, in some cases, sci­en­tists killed test an­i­mals that did not be­have the way they wanted them to.

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