Animal experiments mostly don't lead to treatments, unnecessarily repeated: study

In most cases, animal experiments do not lead to successful treatment for sick people. Many tests are not performed properly, and tests that have already been done are often repeated, according to a study by Radboud UMC Nijmegen, UMC Utrecht and the Netherlands Heart Institute, AD reports.

According to the researchers, data about failed animal experiments are hardly ever published. "Research is then unnecessarily repeated, through which more animals suffer and die", researcher Mira van der Naald said to AD, calling it a vicious circle. 

The researchers believe that performance pressure in science leads to failed research not being published. If a test yields little or noting, the data is not considered interesting and is then not written about. Scientists are likely also reluctant to write about dozens or hundreds of animals dying without a medicine actually being developed, they believe. 

In 2016 approximately 450 thousand animal experiments were conducted in the Netherlands, 80 thousand fewer than in 2015, according to the newspaper. Test animals mainly concern mice, rats, chickens, birds, pigs and rabbits. Almost 90 percent of the lab animals did not survive.

But that does not necessarily mean that animal testing is useless in general, researcher Van der Naald said to NOS. She emphasized that experiments in which the animals do not survive are also very important for the development of medicines. "For example, we did a study into a promising drug, but in the animal model the drug did not seem to work", she said. The medicine was therefore not developed for people.

Radboud UMC, UMC Utrecht and the Netherlands Heart Institute launched a website where scientists from all over the world can register their findings in animal experiments, both successful and unsuccessful. This can also be done anonymously. 

Last year the Dutch government stated that it wants to halve the number of experiments on animals by 2025, and thereby be a world leader in non-animal testing.