Calculating The Costs Of Animal Research
In discussions about animal ethics, many advocates tend to balk when the subject of cost is brought up. Unfortunately, money is one of the most important factors affecting all of our uses of animals, and many who can’t be swayed by ethical arguments will pay much closer attention when profit (or lack thereof) is the central issue. Though animal research is different from other animal issues in that it doesn’t lend itself very well to consumer pressure tactics, economics still plays a major role in its perpetuation.
In this article, researchers examine the economics of animal research, setting aside ethical questions to look at how various stakeholders are harmed by current drug development practices. In this paper, the stakeholders being discussed include investors, pharmaceutical firms, employees of those firms, the general public, and – last but not least – the patients that use the drugs being developed. The types of “harms” done to these stakeholders are explored by looking at the costs of animal research which include: costs shouldered by patients in the form of unsafe or ineffective treatments; costs to investors in the broad sense of money wasted on research practices that don’t work; and opportunity costs of time and money spent on animal research that could have been used more effectively and led to better treatments, sooner.
The results of the review are thoroughly researched, and staggering: quoting a representative from GlaxoSmithKline, the study notes that “the average success rate … for all therapeutic areas combined is 11%. For oncology, this is even lower at 5%.” Elsewhere, the authors break down the numbers: “Approximately 37% of drugs that make it to human trials fail in Phase I human clinical trials, 55% fail in Phase II, and 12.6% fail in Phase III.” With billions and billions spent on so much failing research, it can be puzzling why it continues. Thankfully, the authors outline how FDA regulations, NIH funding, and a pharmaceutical industry that is “internally divided regarding whether to recognize the futility of animal models,” all do their part in keeping the system going.
For research animal advocates, the study provides a wealth of material that makes a convincing economic case for abandoning the use of animals in biomedical research. What’s more, it does so in a way that eschews typical ethical arguments, in favour of extensively sourced figures and evidence, much of it from the pharmaceutical industry itself. As for alternatives, the authors are strong proponents of personalized medicine, where treatments, drugs, dosages, and more, are all tailored to patients on an individual basis. DNA profiling is becoming cheaper and faster, and will make it easier to use personalized medicine to match specific treatments to specific patients in order to maximize efficacy and minimize side effects. All of this spells good news for patients, drug companies, and animals, if regulations and funding around animal research can be shifted in this direction.