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Reducing animal testing: Commission agrees partnership with industry

European Commission - IP/05/1375   07/11/2005

Other available languages: FR DE

IP/05/1375

Brussels, 7 November 2005

Reducing animal testing: Commission agrees partnership with industry

Reducing animal testing is the aim of a new "European partnership to promote alternative approaches to animal testing". Industry associations from the pharmaceuticals, chemicals, cosmetics, and biotechnology sectors and the European Commission have agreed on this partnership on the occasion of the conference on alternative approaches to animal testing “Europe Goes Alternative”, which took place in Brussels today. It was jointly hosted by Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen and Commissioner Janez Potočnik. The development of new methods will not only reduce animal testing, but also increase competitiveness of European industry. The commercially most successful alternative method, which replaces the “rabbit pyrogen test” for bacterial impurities in drugs with a test using human cells, has a world-wide market volume of € 200 million and could save the life of 200,000 rabbits a year (see IP/03/662).

Commissioner Günter Verheugen responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “The agreement underlines that the EU is in the lead for animal protection. We do not only wish to reduce animal testing, but also want to bring it to an end in the long run. Moreover, alternative testing methods are innovations, which benefit the competitiveness of European industry.”

Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, added: “The agreement with different industry sectors is a major step forward in making validated alternative methods available. We will support the partnership by increasing our efforts to support research, development and evaluation of alternative testing methods under the new Research Framework Programme.”

Industrial trade associations (CEFIC, EFPIA, COLIPA, EuropaBio, ECPA, AISE[1]), and the Commission agreed today on the “3 R’s Declaration”. It establishes a voluntary European partnership aiming at refining, reducing or replacing (3 R’s) animal use. A task force will set up an action programme with concrete activities during the first quarter 2006. It will be designed in the perspective of identifying barriers to progress and propose appropriate solutions in order to promote the development, validation and regulatory acceptance of alternative approaches, as e.g.

  • mapping of research activities and current strategies,
  • cooperation in research
  • development of alternative approaches, including intelligent testing strategies,
  • facilitate the validation process by available knowledge
  • practical mechanisms to facilitate the regulatory acceptance process of alternative approaches.

The programme will be reviewed on a regular basis and be made publicly available.

Projects to promote the development of the three R’s under the EU’s Research Framework Programmes include:

  • new in vitro tests to replace animal experimentation (with specific opportunities for SMEs)
  • workshop on business opportunities for in vitro pharmacology and toxicology
  • assessment of the quality of current test methods
  • intelligent testing strategies for chemicals.

Despite all efforts in Europe about 10.7 million animals are used per year (2002). More than 50% were used in research and development for human medicine, dentistry and in fundamental biology studies, about 16 % in production and quality control of products and devices in human medicine, veterinary medicine and dentistry, and about 10 % for toxicological and other safety evaluation. From this 10 %, about 0.25 % (+/- 2600 animals) was used for toxicological or other safety evaluations of products/substances used or intended to be used mainly as cosmetics or toiletries.

Today, science can increasingly refine, reduce and replace animal tests by cell culture methods, computer models and extrapolations from existing data. The main problem in fully replacing animal tests is that the high safety standards for consumers, workers and patients must not be endangered by changing to new safety assessments. Therefore, animal tests are still needed in the areas of pharmaceuticals, food and feed, chemicals, cosmetics, medical devices, biotechnology etc.

Some human health effects can already today be assessed using replacement methods, i.e. skin corrosion, skin absorption and acute phototoxicity. Other health effects, such as acute systemic toxicity or skin allergy, can now be tested using fewer animals with less severe effects on them.
For more information see the conference web site:

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/events/animal_tests/index_en.htm
More information on EU-funded research to replace animal tests

http://ec.europa.eu/research/press/2004/pr2306en.cfm

and the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) http://ecvam.jrc.it/index.htm

http://ecvam.jrc.it/index.htm


[1] European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), EuropaBio, European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association (COLIPA), International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Product Industry in Europe (A.I.S.E.) as well as the European Federation on Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA)


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