On the night of May 26, an issue with the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems at a facility in Rochester, Michigan operated by JHP Pharmaceuticals drove temperatures to a high of 38 degrees Celsius for a period of around seven hours.
The following morning, workers discovered 35 guinea pigs dead while a further four died over the next day.
The guinea pigs were being used in diagnostic antigen assay testing, as required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Stephen Mock, a spokesman from Par Pharmaceuticals which acquired JHP in in January 2014 said.
“This incident was most unfortunate and Par Pharmaceutical takes its responsibility for animal care and welfare most seriously,” he told us. “The event was self-reported by the Company to the USDA [US Department of Agriculture].”
This led to an inspection of the site, which houses laboratories for chemistry, sterility, testing, analytical methods and development, in June by the USDA which found the company has “put in place immediate and long term corrective actions to ensure that this does not happen again,” something reiterated by Mock.
But in a letter sent to the USDA yesterday, animal rights organization SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now) demanded the agency levy “the largest fine allowable under the Animal Welfare Act against JHJ)P [sic] Pharmaceuticals or $10,000 per non-compliance/per animal.”
Mock did not comment on the appeal.
This isn’t the first example of animals used in testing services dying due to issues with HVAC systems:
In 2014, 13 primates died in two separate temperature-related incidents at a preclinical facility in Alice, Texas run by CRO Covance. Two died as a result of a thermostat malfunction in September, while 11 died from hyperthermia a month later.
In January of the same year, it was likely 32 rabbits died because of the decreased air flow during the transportation between preclinical vendor Harlan Laboratories – since merged with Huntingdon life Sciences and renamed - and CompMed.
According to a letter sent by Harlan to the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) at the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) dated September 5 2014, the problem lay with the third party transportation company which loaded the animals into a vehicle with a cargo-hold that was too small.