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John Key, Legal Highs, Rats, Rabbits and Thalidomide

John Key, Legal Highs, Rats, Rabbits, Dogs and Thalidomide

Prime Minister John Key brought up Thalidomide as an example of why animal testing on multiple species may be required for recreational drugs. Key said on Firstline this morning “In the early days when they had thalidomide, the issue there was they tested it on rats – they didn't test it on rabbits. The belief is that had they taken the next step and gone to a different form of animal, in this case rabbits, it would have actually picked up the problem.”

The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society (NZAVS) has expressed surprise at this at this justification “Thalidomide was tested on multiple species after birth defects appeared in humans. It was tested on different rodents, monkeys, chickens, guinea pigs, ferrets, pigs, cats and more and it wasn’t until they gave doses from 25 to 300 times that people ever had to one breed of rabbit that birth defects presented. No animal test has ever paralleled the effect Thalidomide had on the human foetus.” said NZAVS spokesperson Stephen Manson.[1]

“To bring up the Thalidomide example is bizarre; it’s a classic example of how huge amounts of animal testing on multiple species fail to predict what happens in humans.

Peter Dunne said on One News last night “I’ve made it very clear that we’re not going to test on dogs” but this is contrary to both his earlier comments that testing on dogs was “an unpleasant but necessary reality”[2] and the Psychoactive Substances Act requirements for animal testing if it is done. The legislation says that any animal testing must meet the guidelines from the International Conference on Harmonisation and if animal testing is done these require testing on both small and large animals.

“Dunne has never before said testing on dogs won’t happen, quite the opposite. The government has backed themselves into a corner over the animal testing – if it is done the legislation requires large animal testing and that means either dogs or primates, rabbits are not large animals for testing purposes” Mr Manson went on to say. “If they aren’t happy with testing on dogs or rabbits because they’re cute they need to stop all animal testing, this is the only way forward. It is the only sensible and practical option and the only option palatable to New Zealand voters.”

“Testing on rodents is useless; it tells us nothing of value. In a paper published just last week researchers found that even the gender of the person experimenting on rodents can affect the results[3]. Is this the sort of hap-hazard testing regime Key and Dunne want synthetic cannabis to go through to get approved for sale?

“We have given the government advice from global experts in non-animal toxicology and they have had it for over 18 months now yet they’re still talking about failed animal tests done in the 1950s and 60s and there’s been fifty years of progress since then. This is not good enough. It’s the 21st century - we need to use 21st century science and knowledge.”


1 http://www.safermedicines.org/faqs/faq17.shtml
2 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/8025166/Dogs-facing-death-for-legal-highs
3 http://www.nature.com/nmeth/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nmeth.2935.html

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