HILLSBORO - April 26th, 2002. Today, Elaine Close, of the Coalition to Abolish Animal Testing (CAAT), held a news briefing in front of the Oregon Regional Primate Center to release an independent audit of the National Institutes of Health, authored by Michael Budkie, a national research analyst with Cincinnati-based SAEN. The Oregon Regional Primate Center is among dozens of research laboratories named in an independent audit of the National Institutes of Health that suggests there is a massive "waste" of tax money - including nearly $110 million at the ORPC alone - on useless, redundant studies.
The audit estimates the cost to taxpayers for the wasteful spending could be as much as $1 million an hour. The report details examples where the identical research - all funded by the NIH - is duplicated needlessly in scores of labs.
Mr. Budkie notes that the number of experiments on animals that are duplicated excessively is increasing. As of 2001, NIH-funded research on animals included about 30,000 separate projects at a cost of $8.5 billion. That's an increase, Mr. Budkie said, of more than 18 percent since 1997 and 37.3 percent since 1991.
One example in the audit cites 450 NIH grants studying cocaine use in rats, mice or macaque monkeys at a $130 million annual cost to taxpayers. Another study of neural information processing costs millions a year but is duplicated in nearly 200 identical projects.
If asked, the NIH would surely point out small differences between each study and assert that the data collected is unique, thus valuable. But, Close points out that research should be judged by the benefits these animal studies provide. She asks, "How has all this helped sick people?" "Is this a good use of billions of dollars when millions of people in this country don't have healthcare?"
One study Ms. Close cites involves studying the cardiac effects of cocaine in mice with the animal equivalent of AIDS. In order for results to be predictive, Close says human and rodent cardiac systems would need to be the same. They're not. An essential component of discovering a remedy for a medical problem is charting its path of "infection." Mice don't get AIDS. Mice don't use coke.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says there are over 700,000 pregnant women who abuse illegal substances. Yet the Oregon Primate Center is addicting pregnant monkeys to cocaine to study the effects on the fetuses. Impregnating monkeys. Addicting them to coke. Killing the babies. This is science? When there are hundreds of thousands of human children who could be studied and given much-needed medical attention in the process?
"A radical restructuring of the NIH grant approval system, and the Animal Care & Use Committee system are necessary prevent further waste of federal tax dollars," said Mr. Budkie, who called for Congress to commission a General Accounting Office audit of the NIH grant system, and correlate research contract data to examine the issue of duplication within the NIH.
Copies of the NIH audit, entitled "The Animal Experimentation Scandal," is available upon request and at http://www.all-creatures.org/wlalw/report-anexp-pdf.html.