Huntingdon Life Science (HLS) claims it is in the business of saving lives. Yours, mine, and those of babies in incubators and thousands of other people. It admits "a few animals" are used to achieve this, but says it's saving human lives and there's no other way of screening drugs to make sure they're safe. That's the claim, repeated at every opportunity - and the one which we need to demolish if we're ever going to see HLS removed.
In 1999, Merck, a client of HLS, announced that they had produced Vioxx - a painkiller that was as effective as anything else on the market but which did not have the potentially fatal side effects of other "non-steroidal anti-inflammatories " or NSAIDs such as naproxen and ibuprofen. The company also claimed in Vioxx’s early marketing days that the drug could relieve arthritis and cure colon cancer.
In October 2000, Merck supplied the FDA with a string of death reports involving heart attacks and strokes. In 2005, a public scandal involving the deaths of thousands of people due to Vioxx made headlines worldwide. Merck now faces in the region of 9650 lawsuits over Vioxx in the United States alone, and it is estimated that the drug is responsible for the deaths of at least 2000 people in the UK.
GlaxoSmithKline is another well-known customer of HLS, so maybe HLS were the ones who ensured Lotronex (indicated for women with severe irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS) was safe before it was released on the market. Lotronex caused five deaths in America and was withdrawn in February 2000. Another 93 known patients had to have surgery due to the effects of Lotronex, including removal of the colon. In clinical trials, 27% of Lotronex patients suffered severe constipation, compared to 5% in a group taking no active treatment. GSK can't claim they were trying to save lives with Lotronex. It was a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition which causes discomfort but is not serious - unlike the serious conditions Lotronex caused.
GSK were also the manufacturers of Raxar, an antibiotic which was withdrawn in December 1999 after thirteen deaths. Raxar disrupted the QT interval (in other words, made the heartbeat irregular), yet was not necessary because there were already plenty of satisfactory antibiotics. Maybe this was tested at HLS. Maybe they also helped gain approval for Avelox, a drug their customer Bayer released just weeks after Raxar was withdrawn. Avelox was another antibiotic which was found to influence the QT interval. Within a year it was cited in reports of eighteen deaths.
Another customer, Roche, released Posicor in the summer of 1997. Maybe it was being tested on the animals featured in the "Countryside Undercover" program which was released soon after. 100 reported deaths were filed by the following June, and even Roche admitted that Posicor patients had a death rate 10% higher than those on similar treatments. Posicor was a treatment for high blood pressure and offered nothing that exisiting, safer drugs couldn't offer. An official from the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who oversees drug approval said of Posicor, "There are a lot of other effective therapies out there. Why not be safe with the public?" If they had been, those 100 people would probably be alive today.
Redux was a diet pill made by American Home Products (AHP), another HLS customer. In 17 months on the market, 123 deaths were linked with it by the FDA. Heart valve damage and respiratory problems caused by the drug were widespread, and damages for each category are expected to reach $4,750 million.
Duract, Lotronex, Posicor, and Redux were among seven drugs examined by the Los Angeles Times in a thorough investigation into the drug approval process. One of the most significant conclusions it found was that deaths recorded are just the tip of the iceberg. It interviewed Dr. Brian L. Strom, Chairman of Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a renowned expert on the matter. "The underreporting is vast," he says, estimating reported deaths to represent around 1 -10% of all side effects. This means that the figures quoted above may be more accurate if multiplied by ten or even 100. David Bates, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, estimated that reported events represent around 5% of the total figure. The LA Times study of just seven of the thousands of drugs on the market in recent years counted 1,002 deaths.
As so few deaths are reported, this means the reality is that at least 10,020 people were killed by these drugs in America - and possibly more than 100,000. To use David Bates' estimate of 5%, we come to the conclusion that EACH of those drugs took one human life on average every 4 hours 41 minutes of every day and night it was on the market. Bates' estimate came in the April 1998 issue of JAMA in response to an article in that edition which studied 39 previous studies of drug side effects. It concluded that 106,000 people are killed every year in America alone by prescription drugs and over 2.2 million are hospitalized by them. This was stressed to include only drugs which were "properly prescribed and administered. "
In the UK, the situation is similar. Earl Baldwin commented in the House of Lords in 1998 (Hansard, Dec. 12th, 1998) that drug side effects were the third biggest cause of death, which is more than all cancers combined. A UK medical journal [Nature Medicine 2000; 6:502-503] once noted: "In England, an estimated 70,000 deaths and cases of severe disability occur each year because of adverse reactions to prescription drugs."
So, how did these drugs get passed for use in humans in the first place? The LA Times found details of human trials which followed the animal tests - and, in every case cited, the human trials indicated that the drugs which had passed the animal tests spelled danger, with staff at the FDA recommending against approval. But the crazy belief in animal testing had led these drug producers to a state of mind where they were prepared to ignore the results of the human trials and believe the contrived animal results instead. The reality is that these drugs would never have got to human trial stage at all if there wasn't a package of animal data to back up the claim for approval. The production of this selective report which aims to present a claim for a licence, as opposed to assessing safety, is the business of HLS.
It's also easy when you use animals. With dozens of species available and scores of substrains within each species - not to mention different dose levels, dose periods, and test conditions - you can get the results you want. Rather than hoping the results come out as you want them, you can actually make them come out "right." Professor Pieto Croce, an ex-vivisector, quotes examples of what you can 'prove' if you use the right species. You can prove lemon juice, parsley, penicillin, the essential heart drug digitalis, chloroform, or even water are dangerous to humans. You can also prove that arsenic, strychnine, hemlock, the deathcap toadstool, and prussic acid are safe for humans. Had we not already learned our lesson from the effects on humans, Thalidomide (which caused 10,000 birth defects), Ecainide, and Flecainide (3,000 deaths), Clioquinol, Eraldin, and countless other drugs which are known to blind, injure, and kill humans could gain approval from the animal method. In fact, that's how they were approved initially.
HLS is under pressure to do exactly that with the drugs its customers submit for "screening" or for developing a package of sympathetic, irrelevant results - to put it another way. Each drug may have cost in the region of £100 million to produce, so the manufacturers want it out whether it works or not, whether it's safe or not. Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the FDA Drug Review Center, acknowledged in an article she wrote in 1997: "There are economic pressures to get drugs on the market as soon as possible." It's worth remembering that if HLS continues to perform to the expectations of its customers, it will continue to get work. In other words, it has to give its customers the results they want, whether it's the truth or not.
Even when this method backfires and a drug company finds itself being sued by the families of victims killed by its drugs, this system protects itself. For one, it protects against court cases. In order to win a case, the victim has to prove negligence on the part of the drug company. A standard reply to this claim is generally reference to the hundreds of animal tests done. How could a company which spent all these resources on animal experiments be "negligent"? Admittedly, sometimes companies pay out to victims. But, in practice, it's a small part of the turnover generated by the drugs. Each of the seven drugs examined by the LA Times brought in an average $1.3 million dollars each and every day it was on the market. While the drug company lawyers argue that victims had pre-existing conditions, the revenue often covers resulting payouts with plenty to spare. The message from the drug companies is clear: They will still sell a drug if it's dangerous, because the sales generally outweigh the damages they pay afterwards. And the way to get dit passed is to use a contract animal lab.
Much of what's been quoted above has been centred on the situation in the USA, where the information researched by the LA Times has been so comprehensive. But there's no indication that the United Kingdom, with it's government rushing to the defense of the pharmaceutical companies at every turn, is any different. If we have the same rates of death and illness caused by drugs as the States, the conclusions are no less appalling. It would mean that we have over 20,000 people killed in our country every year as a result of pharmaceutical drugs, which is one every twenty-six minutes. Patients requiring hospital treatment to treat the effects of drugs would number over 400,000 every year - or one every fifteen-and- a-half minutes of every day and every night. These are men, women, and children - often the "babies in incubators" Cass is so keen to claim will be saved by his company.
Maybe Brian Cass would like to speak to a parent of a child killed by Propulsid? This heartburn treatment passed animal tests and was available in America until recently, despite other suitable treatments being readily available. The reported deaths numbered 302 people (which means, in reality, deaths were probably around 6,000) and included many children and babies under one year of age who died from heart disruptions caused by the drug. It was withdrawn in March 2000. At least two other subsections of Johnson & Johnson are known to use HLS, so the subsidiary Janssen who manufactured Propulsid may have been permitted thanks to data concocted by HLS. In the clinical trials in 1993, the drug dangerously disrupted the heart rhythm of and killed eight children under six years of age. It was still prescribed to children for gastric reflux, a minor ailment which does little more than disturb the sleep of babies under one year. Deaths continued. Johnson & Johnson made educational grants to the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, who admitted it was receiving "generous support" from J & J. Their literature advised doctors that Propulsid was effective and safe in children. As late as October 1998, the NASPGN held a symposium on the use of Propulsid - years after it knew it killed children.
In recent years, the dangerous drugs released by HLS customers have been numerous. Bayer's heart drug Baycol (lipobay) killed 50 and was hastily withdrawn, and its skin cream Canestan caused pain so severe it actually led to suicide. Acetylcoline caused heart attacks. Bristol Myers-Squibb caused facial swelling with its drug Vanlev, 14 deaths with the shingles drug Sorivudine, heart attacks with the cholesterol drug Lipostat, and deaths with Clopidogrel. Eli Lilly - who killed 61 and injured 3,000 with Opren - has also brought out Fialuridine, which caused liver damage in half of patients. In addition to the ones already mentioned, GlaxoSmithKline has released Imigraine, Zyban, Seroxat, Relenza, Septrin, Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Sumatripan, Flovent, Selacryn, Wellbutrin, and Ridaura - which have all caused illness, injury, or death. Merck has released Rofecoxid, which caused strokes - and Zomax, the arthritis drug which killed people. Novartis's Zelmac (for IBS) caused side effects; its Clozapine caused a blood disorder; and Methysergide caused scarring of the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels.
The list goes on, with many serious effects caused by drugs produced by HLS customers. Contract testing has to be among the lowest methods, legal or otherwise, of making a living. It is the practice of ensuring a product is permitted - whether or not it's worthwhile, safe, or dangerous. In the case of HLS, we also know it's done to standards beneath even the rest of this despicable industry. Where else have staff been filmed punching dogs, dissecting a live monkey, or simulating sex with the animals? Where else is drunkenness, drug dealing, and falsification of data met with such indifference? The only customers left at HLS are those with the lowest standards who are happy to accept the incompetence of HLS and don't give a damn for anything except getting products on the market and making money - whatever the cost in terms of lives and injuries, human or animal. This is the reality of the vivisection industry and of the lives that are wrecked and ended by companies like HLS. If the lie that HLS is in the business of helping humanity survives, so will HLS. If it is finished, so is HLS. The evidence allows only one conclusion.