Contract research organisations Covance, Harlan, Sequani, Charles River Laboratories and Huntingdon Life Sciences have signed an agreement to be open about their animal research.
Launched today, the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research was also endorsed by ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), as well as big pharma companies including GSK, Lilly and Pfizer.
The new openness will involve “highlighting why CROs need to use animals and what are the benefits in terms of developing treatments,” Louise Leong, Director of R&D Policy, ABPI, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.
The agreement contains four promises, notably being transparent about the reasons for animal research, and the frequency of tests. Sponsors and contract research organisations (CROs) promise:
- “We will be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research.
- “We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals.
- “We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals.
- “We will report on progress annually and share our experiences.”
Covance educates staff
The agreement is part of “a journey towards more openness surrounding animal research,” said Leong. “Many of the organisations are already doing a lot of what the concordat commits to. This is to get them all to a place that’s more uniform and consistent.”
For instance, “Covance is providing more information about animals research across its staff intranet – it has 1,200 employees [in the UK].” Covance will also set up dedicated internal groups to report research figures, she added.
Other companies have committed to raising staff awareness of why animals are used, and “proactively” engaging with the public.
There are limits to the openness of the agreement. Where signatories work on a project with organisations which have not signed the concordat and where there are “issues of confidentiality or commercial sensitivity,” CROs should be “as open as possible in sharing information with the public while respecting these constraints.”
Similarly, while some of the companies endorsing the pact allow access to their facilities by journalists, politicians and school, patient and community groups, the document acknowledges “there will sometimes be practical reasons why access may not be possible, and the Concordat therefore does not require any signatory to guarantee access to its facilities,” but instead “strongly encourage[s]” considering the visits.
When asked whether publishing more information about animal research could lead to an increase in protests by animal rights campaigners, Leong responded that the organisations involved “all believe it is a good thing to put out accurate and up-to- date information, because if the public is well-informed it leaves less room for misinformation and fear.”
She added that protests are obviously legal in a democracy, “but what has been very difficult in the past is intimidation of staff and employees and violence and physical attacks.” However changes to UK law in the last few years “have removed some of the fear of intimidation, and since then, scientists have been more willing to be able to speak up about animal research.”
The information revealed will not include “anything that’s detrimental to personnel security,” she said.
Animal testing in the UK is regulated by the Home Office, under ASPA (the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 ).