I am writing on behalf of OHSU President Peter Kohler to thank you for your letter sharing your concerns about the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU. I also want to take this opportunity to applaud you for your volunteer work at the XXXXXXXXXXXX. Like the XX, OHSU, greatly values the efforts of volunteers like you. We believe Oregonians who donate their time to aid families facing difficult health situation should be recognized for their work.
In response to your comments about the primate center, I would first like to present a little background. The Center is an important research arm of OHSU. Scientists at ONPRC conduct basic research in such key areas as the search for better methods of contraception, the use of stem cells to treat diseases such as diabetes, the processes of degeneration of the brain caused by aging, the causes of obesity and the development of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. A few of the primate center's key breakthroughs have resulted in:
For more information on these breakthroughs and additional research conducted at the primate center, I invite you to visit our website at http:/onprc.ohsu.edu/
- Changes in baby formula so that it may provide similar benefits to human breast milk. As you may already know, breast milk ingredients influence mental and physical development.
- Advancements in fertility research allowing women who become infertile while battling cancer to have children once they become cancer free.
- A greater understanding of factors that influence lifelong, genetics-related obesity issues.
- Methods for counteracting some negative effects of nicotine in unborn babies when the mother refuses to stop smoking.
- New testing methods to detect and prevent premature birth.
- A unique, new strategy for developing a vaccine for HIV/AIDS.
Your letter also suggested that animals are not good models for human health studies. This misleading claim has been made by several animal rights groups opposed to any and all medical research involving animals. However, the claim is not based in fact. In reality, animals and humans are very much alike. In fact, several studies exist demonstrating how animal models were very accurate methods for improving the understanding of human and animal health and for developing new treatments.
Those opposed to animal research often provide information taken out of context to suggest that animal research is not valid. However, the vast majority of data demonstrates the reality - that animals are effective health models and necessary for conducting medical research - a position strongly supported by the American Medical Association. If you are interested in receiving more information about the important role of animals in health breakthroughs, please feel free to contact me at 503-494-8231.
Finally, I am hoping to impress upon you the tremendous amount of oversight that exists to ensure that all animals involved in health research are treated in a humane and ethical manner. As you may be aware, keen competition for funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) means that only the very best health related research projects in the nation - all screened for compliance with the highest standards of animal care - are funded. Those projects include all research at OHSU's primate center. The NIH also provides the core grant to operate the center and has strict animal care guidelines. NIH representative tour the center whenever the core grant renewal is reviewed.
Another key oversight agency is the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA conducts two surprise inspections of the primate center yearly. The Food and Drug Administration has a set of guidelines for animal care we are required to follow. In addition, OHSU voluntarily seeks accreditation for the Association for the Advancement and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care. AAALAC conducts exhaustive site visits every three years and receives open access to all areas of the center including animal care records. The visit is staffed by international experts on animal care. In addition, we are required to submit materials to AAALAC annually demonstrating our high level of care for animals. This organization has accredited OHSU's primate center for an uninterrupted 30 years.
With this letter I am enclosing some information about animal research in general, because all the advances in medical knowledge and treatment from we (sic) benefit today are attributable at some stage in their development on (sic) animal research.
Again, thank you for your letter.
Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon National Primate Research Center
As OHSU's representative, Jim Newman pretends to care about "families facing difficult health situations". If they really cared, they would stop wasting millions of public dollars on bogus animal research while programs like the Oregon Health Plan are devastated from budget cuts.
This letter was written by a person whose job is public relations, to put a positive spin on animal research. To give an idea of Jim Newman's concern for sick people: In 2003, at a neighborhood meeting in Hillsboro to discuss OHSU's proposed biosafety level 4 lab, primate center whistleblower, Matt Rossell was talking about OHSU's poor record of following safety protocols. http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/271354.shtml Rossell was talking about seeing calves infected with cryptosporidia, secreted out and given to a technician to take home. When he referred to cryptosporidia as a deadly bacteria, Jim Newman interrupted and attempted to contradict him by saying it only kills people with weakened immune systems. So those people don't count?
This letter is a great example of the response you will get from OHSU (or most animal research institutions) if you challenge their use of non-human animals in medical research. The same old unsubstantiated claims and an attempt to make it seem like only animal rights "extremists" oppose animal research. OHSU will buy ads and have their PR person send you a letter and maybe some pamphlets but they certainly wont engage in real debate.
Let's look at some of the claims made in this letter.
Newman claims they have "a unique, new strategy for developing a vaccine for HIV/AIDS". This is very far from a useful outcome. They could ask the magic 8 ball if an experimental vaccine would work and call it a unique new strategy. For decades, animal researchers have failed to develop a AIDS vaccine that works in humans. In fact none of the AIDS- related breakthroughs or useful discoveries have come from animal-based experiments. This type of experimentation has only misled doctors and caused delays in life saving treatments. For example, the use of protease inhibitors in human patients was delayed for 4 years because they killed laboratory dogs. For years we have been hearing about HIV vaccines developed in monkeys. They have all failed in people. The bottom line is that monkeys don't get AIDS. How can we possibly find a cure for a disease using an animal that does not get the disease?
"Far too frequently animal models have been used to develop vaccines that are effective in animals but are ineffective or worse, harmful in humans. AIDS is a terrible illness, and research money and personnel need to be directed toward methodologies that are viable. Using an archaic methodology like animal models to combat a 21st century disease is more than foolish, it is immoral" -Dr. Ray Greek
Newman also mentions brain research. Monkey brains will not teach us about human brains. The history of brain research in non-humans is full of failure. In one of many examples, in 2001, an Alzheimer's vaccine was withdrawn because it caused serious brain inflammation in humans, after proving safe in monkeys. In fact monkeys don't get Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or other neurological diseases that are debilitating to humans. Additionally we now have the ability through new imaging technology to observe actual human brains non-invasively.
Recently, Cambridge University proposed to build a primate research lab with a focus on brain research. There was such a public controversy generated by this that a government hearing was conducted to decide if building the lab was in the public interest. Doctors and scientists both for and against the lab were given the opportunity to present evidence. The committee decided that the animal researchers had not made their case and denied their application. This was not a discussion about animal rights but a discussion about whether or not brain research in monkeys was useful.
"Dr Jerry Vlasak of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine - a US-based group representing more than 5,000 physicians - said that the lab would generate volumes of useless data at vast expense to the taxpayer and of no value to patients." -from PUBLIC INQUIRY - Our Triumphant Performance
Unfortunately in this country, animal researchers just keep getting our money without having to prove anything.
Newman is attributing the alleged breakthrough in baby formula to the monkey research of Martha Neuringer. Neuringer's monkey experiments supposedly proved that certain fatty acids found in breast milk should be in infant formula. These fatty acids are now added to infant formula. OHSU does not mention that dozens of human-based studies came to the same conclusion and Nueringer simply duplicated these results in monkeys. Since we know that "breast milk ingredients influence mental and physical development", shouldn't it have been common sense that what is in breast milk should be in formula?
"Dr. Neuringer's current research requires infant monkeys to consume diets that are deficient in fatty acids to prove a point that is already well understood by experts in pediatric nutrition. To demonstrate a fact in an animal model that is already established by human clinical data can only be seen as self-aggrandizing, avaricious attempt to procure grant funds."
--Ken Stoller, M.D., FAAP Pediatrician
"Dr. Neuringer's research involving feeding a deficient diet to infant monkeys will only demonstrate what is already known, or will reach inappropriate conclusions about human brain function based on data collected from animals kept under unnatural, deprived laboratory conditions. It is an example of how to waste our valuable tax dollars."
--Robert A. Greenberg, M.D., MSPN, FAAP Pediatrician
"Methods for counteracting some negative effects of nicotine in unborn babies when the mother refuses to stop smoking." With this statement, Newman is referring to the "breakthrough" of primate researcher Eliot Spindel who has been studying the effects of nicotine on the lungs of monkey fetuses since 1978. He has found that vitamin C can help minimize some types of damage to fetuses from nicotine and says this indicates that pregnant women who smoke should take vitamin C.
Seems like anther no-brainer since we already knew that smoking depletes vitamin C. Is this what we get from 28 years of research and hundreds of thousands of dollars of our tax money?
Also if this question about vitamin C really needs to be investigated and, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, as many as 25% of pregnant women in the U.S. smoke, couldn't we gather this data more reliably from women? (pregnant women who as Newman says, refuse to stop smoking?)
It's ironic that we are still paying for animal-based tobacco research since it was animal research that "proved" that cigarette smoking doesn't cause cancer. Because experimenters could not induce lung cancer in lab animals from cigarette smoke, tobacco companies escaped liability for years. That is what we have really gotten from decades of tobacco related animal research.
Similarly animal research "proved" that high cholesterol diets do not cause heart disease, that benzene and asbestos are not harmful, that Thalidomide is safe, that Phen-fen and Vioxx ( http://www.pcrm.org/magazine/gm05winter/gm05winter03.html ) are safe, that penicillin is useless, and on and on.
Preventing premature birth? Fewer and fewer people have access to health care in this country. How about we use public money to give women prenatal care instead of wasting money on inapplicable monkey fetus studies. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in the U.S.:
- Up to 25% of all infant deaths could be prevented if pregnant women received adequate prenatal care.
- 1.3 million women receive insufficient prenatal care each year.
We have far more animal research than any other country in the world but our infant mortality rate is higher than that of so-called underdeveloped countries such as Cuba. Why don't we put that money where it will do some good?
Newman indicates that monkey research will help women battling cancer. Saying this doesn't make it so. Cancer research in animals has been a failure and will continue to fail because rat or monkey cancer is not the same as human cancer. http://www.curedisease.com/FAQ.html#cancer In March of last year Fortune Magazine had a cover article called "Why We Are losing the War on Cancer and How to Win It". It discusses how we have had lots of apparent breakthroughs in lab animals and they just haven't translated to humans. The article, quotes Robert Weinberg, professor of biology at MIT and winner of the National Medal of Science, referring to mice, "A fundamental problem which remains to be solved in the whole cancer research effort, in terms of therapies, is that the preclinical models of human cancer, in large part, stink". Is Fortune a radical animal rights publication? For a lengthier discussion of why animal research won't cure cancer see Sacred Cows and Golden Geese by Drs. Ray and Jean Greek.
"Giving cancer to laboratory animals has not and will not help us to understand the disease or to treat those persons suffering from it"
-Dr. Albert Sabin
"The history of cancer research has been a history of curing cancer in the mouse...We have cured mice of cancer for decades and it simply didn't work in humans "
Dr. Richard Klausner, former director of the National Cancer Institute.
"Your letter also suggested that animals are not good models for human health studies. This misleading claim has been made by several animal rights groups opposed to any and all medical research involving animals." OHSU would like everyone to think that it is only animal rights folks that oppose animal research. It is getting harder and harder for them to pretend this is the case. In the Cambridge example cited above, the British government is obviously not an animal rights group. Worldwide, many respected doctors and scientists question the usefulness of animal experimentation. Organizations such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Americans for Medical Advancement are made up of doctors who oppose animal research because it harms human patients. Also, scientists have been critiquing animal research for a very long time. For a historical perspective, see 1,000 Doctors Against Vivisection, Hans Ruesch.
"Congruence between in-vitro and animal models of disease and the corresponding human condition is a fundamental assumption of much biomedical research, but it is one that is rarely critically assessed. In the absence of such critical assessment, the assumption of congruence may be invalid for most models. Much more open discussion of this issue is required if biomedical research is to be clinically productive."
David F. Horrobin, medical doctor and inventor of over 50 drug-related patents, Modern Biomedical Research: An Internally Self-Consistent Universe With Little Contact With Medical Reality? Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, (2003) PDF
Americans for Medical Advancement provides something that you will not see from OHSU, citations to back up their claims as well as a willingness to debate anyone on the subject. OHSU on the other hand won't even comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for public information about their experiments, let alone debate. People have had to take them to court to get information about research we are paying for. OHSU has been repeatedly asked to debate the validity of their animal experimentation in a public forum. They continue to refuse.
What kind of science can't hold up to questioning? The refusal to debate just underscores the fact that they are engaged in dogma, not science.
As for the claim that animals and humans are very much alike, very much alike doesn't have much scientific meaning. Similar doesn't mean much when we are studying disease on a cellular level. Even chimps are different enough from us on a cellular level to make extrapolating data from them useless. (They are similar but for chimps, PCP is a sedative). Sometimes they react like us, sometimes they don't so it has no predictive value. Small differences between species manifest in significantly different and unpredictable reactions to diseases and treatments. Scientists are finally admitting that clinical studies done only with men have mislead doctors in their treatment of women, yet we still cling to the idea that animals of another species can model humans.
"... several studies exist demonstrating how animal models were very accurate methods for improving he understanding of human and animal health and for developing new treatments." What studies is Newman referring to? There certainly is a lot of data showing that animal models are inaccurate. A study was published in the February 28, 2004 British Medical Journal titled "Where's the Evidence That Animal Research Benefits Humans". After a systematic review of animal experiments, the authors found no evidence that animal experiments contribute to clinical medicine.
"Clinicians and the public often consider it axiomatic that animal research has contributed to the treatment of human disease, yet little evidence is available to support this view... Anecdotal evidence or unsupported claims are often used as justification - for example, statements that the need for animal research is "self evident" or that "Animal experimentation is a valuable research method which has proved itself over time." Such statements are an inadequate form of evidence for such a controversial area of research. We argue that systematic reviews of existing and future research are needed. ".
-British Medical Journal, February 28, 2004 http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7438/514
"However, the vast majority of data demonstrates the reality - that animals are effective health models and necessary for conducting medical research - a position strongly supported by the American Medical Association" Again what data? By "vast majority of data" does he mean vast majority of opinion? If something is said a lot, that doesn't make it true. And is it possible that the AMA could be wrong? Didn't they try to destroy midwifery to protect the profits of obstetricians? AMA support does not constitute data.
"If you are interested in receiving more information about the important role of animals in health breakthroughs, please feel free to contact me at 503-494-8231" I am not sure what he'll send but the pamphlets I have seen from OHSU are nice colors and nicely designed but certainly don't have any of this data he mentions, just more unsubstantiated claims. But it is still a good idea to call him.
As for his claim that only the best health related projects get funded, look at the example of OHSU's Judy Cameron. http://whitecoatwelfare.org/cameron.shtml her research is so obviously pointless that one of her studies was featured on Good Morning America's series "You Paid For It" about the waste of tax money on silly research. Is Good Morning America a radical animal rights show? And by the way, the NIH budget has doubled in recent years. The NIH is itself a massive animal research institution, approving other animal research. It is as they say, "the fox guarding the henhouse".
If "only the very best research projects in the nation are funded" then how do you explain the fact that we have paid Cameron to run monkeys on treadmills to see if exercise is good for the brain, to create fake human-type nuclear families of monkeys and remove the father to study human divorce, to fly gliders over monkeys heads to find our some monkeys are more timid than others, to see if social support helps infants, etc.?
The claim that the "tremendous amount of oversight" ensures that the animals are treated humanely and only those with the highest standards of animal care get funded is absurd. Of course since the research is useless in the first place, it can't possibly be humane to experiment on the animals at all, but for an idea of how well this allegedly humane oversight is working see:
Perhaps one of the most logically flawed and hyperbolic things in the whole letter is:
"... all the advances in medical knowledge and treatment from we (sic) benefit today are attributable at some stage in their development on (sic) animal research."
"attributable at some stage"? Clearly he is trying to give the impression that animal research was an important part of all medical advances. This is a commonly heard but unsupportable claim.
Drs. Ray and Jean Greek have a great discussion of this type of manipulation in their second book Specious Science. They explain how PR people like Newman like to help us confuse causal vs. casual relationships. For example there has been lots of cancer research in animal models and there have been advances in the treatment of cancer. This does not mean one is responsible for the other. Yes, Fleming tried penicillin first in a rabbit. The fact that it was ineffective in this species caused him to put it aside until out of desperation he tried it on a dying patient (He first discovered penicillin serendipitously in vitro and fortunately he did not try it on a guinea pig. Penicillin kills guinea pigs.) This does not keep the animal experimentation industry from taking credit for the whole field of antibiotics.
Animal research is a multi-billion dollar industry. To keep the money coming in, they frame the issue as animal rights "extremists" vs. scientific reason. Yet it is OHSU who does not back up their claims with clear evidence, who refuses to debate and who, when confronted with solid arguments, falls back on manipulative emotionalism. Do not be satisfied with clever PR campaigns and slick pamphlets. Demand answers and real accountability.
and one more time: Jim Newman, 503-494-8231