WASHINGTON—Today, the Humane Society of the United States revealed the results of an approximately seven-month undercover investigation at Inotiv, an animal testing laboratory in Indiana where thousands of animals, including dogs, primates, pigs, mice and rats are killed every year. The investigation reveals the suffering and death of these animals for toxicity testing of drugs.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are calling on the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies to replace animals with more effective non-animal testing approaches that will better serve humans while sparing animals.
From August 2021 to March 2022, an undercover investigator was employed at the facility and assigned to work on more than 70 toxicity studies commissioned by over two dozen pharmaceutical companies involving more than 6,000 animals. Some of the egregious findings revealed throughout the investigation include:
- At least two primates accidentally hanged themselves in restraint chairs.
- Dogs continued to be given doses of substances even when they were vomiting, shaking and had high fevers and labored breathing.
- The laboratory veterinarian did not always assess or treat severely sick dogs and primates, some wailing in pain, due to personal inconvenience.
The animals spent their days behind bars and were subjected to painful procedures such as force-feeding substances via stomach tubes, injections and multiple blood draws. Young primates were often held in restraint chairs for long periods of time during these procedures. Most of the animals were killed at the end of the studies, as is typical for any drug testing.
Close to 90% of drugs tested on animals ultimately fail in human trials, with approximately half of those failures due to unanticipated human toxicity, despite no toxicity having been observed in animals. An example unfolded during the investigation when Aligos Therapeutics ended pursuit of a drug being tested on mice and primates at Inotiv while the HSUS investigator was there. The biopharmaceutical company halted the tests because of unexpected toxicity in a human clinical trial. One person was hospitalized, and three others suffered from adverse effects.
There is evidence that non-animal approaches, such as organ-chip technologies, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and various other approaches, alone or in combination, provide superior results that will ultimately improve drug success rates for humans while sparing animals. The largest organ-chip study conducted to date demonstrated that liver chips detected toxicity in almost seven out of every eight drugs that proved toxic in human patients even after animal tests did not reveal that the drugs were toxic in the animal models.
Most urgently, 80 beagle puppies are still used in toxicity testing that involves forcing them to ingest a drug via stomach tube every day for months on end. The first wave of dogs is scheduled to be killed in mid-May and the HSUS and HSLF are calling for their immediate release from the laboratory. Crinetics Pharmaceuticals commissioned Inotiv to conduct these tests. The HSUS and HSLF are also calling for the release of two dogs who are used by workers to practice procedures, known as stock animals. The dogs have been used for practice procedures for years.
“The disturbing findings at this facility cannot be ignored. We are calling for the release of beagles we know are suffering in the lab today and soon to be euthanized, but that is just the start of our work,” said Kitty Block, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States. “We must tackle the root cause of this suffering. This seems to be one of the only areas in science where failure to innovate and make change is accepted and, at times, encouraged. It is our hope that sharing the plight of these animals will accelerate FDA and pharmaceutical industry changes to replace outdated animal tests with superior modern technologies.”
“Our federal government needs to invest in good science in the form of effective and humane non-animal test methods to replace these tragic animal tests. In many cases non-animal tests are more reliable, faster and more cost effective than the existing animal methods most commonly accepted by our federal government,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “It’s time for the FDA to accelerate the move away from animal testing within the regulated sector. We need to ensure a better future for both animals and people.”
Inotiv is one of hundreds of laboratories carrying out experiments on animals. It is one of the largest and continues to grow.
The company’s dog breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, has been cited for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act, prompting the Virginia legislature to pass five bills to increase protection for animals at laboratory breeding facilities, recently signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
In addition to the release of the 82 dogs, HSUS and HSLF are calling on the company to seek out alternatives, stop testing on all animals in this lab and find appropriate placement for them.
- Emily Snow Ehrhorn