The country's medicinal companies find ways to reduce the use of laboratory animals for research

The medicinal industry in Denmark has increasingly fine-tuned its use of laboratory animals, using far fewer animals for medical experiments than previously, engineering journal Ingeniøren reported Friday.

Few lab animals used for tests

June 23, 2006

Concerns about animal welfare and improved research techniques have enabled drug companies such as Lundbeck, Novo Nordisk and Leo Pharma to avoid using test animals unnecessarily.

'In relation to 1990, the number of research animals we use per employee is more than halved, and I can state that the fall in numbers continues,' said Peter Høngaard Andersen, research director for Lundbeck's pre-clinical experiments.

A study from the national animal testing authority in 2004 showed that the number of experiments with animals has practically remained unchanged since the 1970s. In 1970, for example 343,181 animals were used for experiments, while in 2004, the number had only risen to 351,024.

The number of tests on animals remained stable, despite an increase in activities, said Jens Thing Mortensen, a veterinarian at Leo Pharma.

'In relation to 15 years ago, we use only one-and-a-half times more test animals, while we test 12 to 15 times more molecules than we did then. The number of animal tests is in reality only reduced to a seventh, and that is a conservative estimate.'

A number of reasons accounted for the decrease in the use of lab animals, according to Peter Høngaard Andersen, research director at Lundbeck.

While in the past all tests were conducted on animals, companies now use biotechnologically modified cells. The method costs less and is more efficient to use, while also providing better results, because an entire animal is a far-more complex organism than a cell.

Testing equipment has also become more precise and sensitive, allowing researchers to use a single animal for many tests, said Andersen.

Computer simulations have also been developed, which can also replace animals in many cases, said Mortensen of Leo Pharma.