Richard J. Brown, DVM

The U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training states that experiments involving animals “should be designed and performed with due consideration of their relevance to human or animal health, the advancement of knowledge, or the good of society.” However, analyses of the scientific literature documents that data gleaned from experiments on monkeys have failed to reliably translate to humans. Examples of disappointing failures in various areas of research abound. Taking HIV/AIDS as an example, nearly 90 vaccines have worked in monkeys and every single one has failed in humans (1). Nonhuman primate models of Parkinson’s disease “have failed to reproduce key features of Parkinson’s disease, both in function and in pathology” (2)—and several therapies that showed promise in monkey models of the disease failed in humans (3). Similar problems with extrapolation have been documented with the use of nonhuman primates in toxicology and drug testing, Alzheimer’s research, and stroke research (4).
1. Bailey J. An assessment of the role of chimpanzees in AIDS vaccine research. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 2008;36:381–428.
2. Akhtar A. The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 2015 Oct 1;24(04):407-19.
3. Lane E, Dunnett S. Animal models of Parkinson’s disease and L-dopa induced dyskinesia: How close are we to the clinic? Psychopharmacology 2008;199:303–12.
4. Bailey J. Monkey-based research on human disease: the implications of genetic differences. Alternatives to laboratory animals: ATLA. 2014 Nov 1;42:287-317.

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