`Interesting' Juxtaposition

In his article, Hubel pointed out the ties between the terrorist Animal Liberation Front and the above-ground People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A January 1992 publication of the Office of Technology Assessment (Technology Against Terrorism: Structuring Security) links these groups with Barnard's own organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose views, the OTA report notes, appear "to have little s

Mar 21, 1994
Sharon Russell
The juxtaposition in the Nov. 15, 1993, issue of The Scientist--Nobel laureate David Hubel's thoughtful essay regarding the threat to medical progress posed by the animal rights movement ("Animal Rights Movement Threatens Progress Of U.S. Medical Research," page 11) and the letter by antivivisectionist Neal Barnard (page 12)--was interesting, to say the least.

In his article, Hubel pointed out the ties between the terrorist Animal Liberation Front and the above-ground People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A January 1992 publication of the Office of Technology Assessment (Technology Against Terrorism: Structuring Security) links these groups with Barnard's own organization, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose views, the OTA report notes, appear "to have little support within the medical community" (page 27). Some of Barnard's comments clearly illustrate why this should be the case.

For example, Barnard makes the unsubstantiated claim that more than half the drugs marketed from 1976 through 1985 "were so much more toxic than premarket animal and limited human trials had indicated that they had to be relabeled or withdrawn." I am not certain how serious a problem "relabeling" is, but according to the Office of Planning and Evaluation (OPE) of the United States Food and Drug Administration, only five (3 percent) of the 172 new drugs introduced into the U.S. during that decade were discontinued for safety reasons (A.E. Hass, Jr. and P.L. Coppinger, OPE Study 78, September 1989). Moreover, only two additional drugs (for a total of seven out of 279) were withdrawn because of safety concerns over the period of 1970-88. Thus, contrary to Barnard's allegations, the U.S. has an admirable record of protecting its citizens from unsafe drugs, and animal testing plays a vital role in that process.

Other examples of Barnard's misrepresentations of the truth about animal research and its importance for medical progress have been documented previously (for example, C. Nicoll and S.M. Russell, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 3:271-2, 1992; and the segment "Michael Carey, M.D.," on "60 Minutes," broadcast Jan. 26, 1993).

SHARON M. RUSSELL
Department of Integrative Biology
University of California
Berkeley, Calif. 94720