Kathy Guillermo comment on NIH Blog

This comment from the NIH post was forwarded to me, and several of the points raised seemed in line with some of the concerns I’ve been seeing:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) asks that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) take immediate action to ensure that its September 7, 2016, workshop on the use of nonhuman primates in NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral experimentation will fulfill the mandate explicitly outlined in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 and requested by U.S. members of Congress. If the workshop will serve only to maintain the status quo, NIH will be squandering a critical opportunity to strengthen protections for nonhuman primates and eliminate studies that aren’t contributing to the body of useful scientific knowledge. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins has himself acknowledged the need for additional scrutiny of primate research proposals, and NIH bioethicists have called for restricting primate research. In light of the controversial maternal deprivation and psychopathology experiments on infant monkeys that had for more than 30 years received approval from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development oversight body and been carried out at NIH’s facility in Poolesville, Md., Congress added language to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 that called on NIH “to conduct a review of its ethical policies and processes with respect to nonhuman primate research subjects, in consultation with outside experts, to ensure that it has appropriate justification for animal research protocols.” In January, members of Congress wrote to Dr. Collins to request his “personal involvement in ensuring that this review is productive and comprehensive.” In his February 17, 2016, response, Dr. Collins stated that the NIH would “convene a workshop in the summer of 2016 to review the ethical policies and procedures associated with the conduct of … research [with non-human primates]” and confirmed that this meeting “will include outside experts in animal health and welfare, to ensure that NIH has the appropriate policies and procedures in place for conducting research with non-human primates.” Yet the recently posted draft agenda for the workshop appears to show a disregard for the original directive of the Consolidated Appropriations Act. It appears that the first of the two sessions, “State of the Science of NIH-Supported Research Involving Non-Human Primates,” focusing on questions such as “How do non-human primates uniquely contribute to our understanding of basic biological processes and disease states?” and “What are the emerging scientific opportunities and/or public health needs for which non-human primate research models may be required?,” will be fully dedicated to extolling the use of nonhuman primates in experiments—something that is entirely outside the review mandated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The second session, “Oversight of NIH-Supported Research Using Non-Human Primates,” which includes as one of three group discussion questions “How does the current oversight framework address ethical and welfare concerns using non-human primates in NIH-supported research?” would appear to be an effort to legitimize the false notion that current practices are adequate to protect nonhuman primates used in experimentation. These are issues the panel should address: Primates are used in studies with little or no public health implication and that are unlikely to translate to humans and/or for which alternatives exist. Primates are subjected to painful experiments, sometimes without pain relief. Standard laboratory housing for primates lacks sufficient space, meaningful cognitive stimulation, and adequate social contact, causing significant psychological and physical distress. Thousands of primates are singly-housed, often without adequate scientific or veterinary justification. We suggest that the NIH rules instituted to reform chimpanzee experimentation may address problems with all nonhuman primate research. Specifically, NIH’s chimpanzee research criteria state that (1) knowledge gained must be necessary to advance public health, (2) no other research model could be used, and the research cannot be ethically performed on humans, and (3) the animals used must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate environments or natural habitats. We therefore ask that you take immediate action to radically revise the current agenda to bring it in line with the mandate of the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the request of the members of Congress. We also ask that you release the names of the workshop participants. If fair and balanced, this workshop can help ensure that primate experimentation rules are updated to reflect the current science on animal welfare, research translation, and non-animal methods.


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