How useful is animal testing for predicting human outcomes?

A new report published in the British Medical Journal finds that using animals for drug trials often yields inaccurate results. A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compared results of six animal trials to six human trials with the same drug and found that only three trial results were the same for both humans and animals. This discordance may be due to bias, random error, or the failure of animal models to adequately represent clinical disease. The most notable example of the difference between animal and human testing came earlier this year when six men were hospitalized when a clinical trial of TeGenero’s experimental drug TGN1412 went wrong. Within hours of taking the drug TGN1412, a candidate for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, six volunteers wound up in a London hospital suffering from severe adverse events that included organ failure. Data from animal trials of the drug did not suggest that human test subjects would have so severe a reaction. Professor Ian Roberts, the director of the study, notes that further understanding of how drugs affect animals and humans is necessary in order to know how to test specific medicines. “The debate over this issue is really quite hysterical. At the moment, there is too much emotion and not much science,” he notes. Roberts suggests more communication between scientists conducting animal trials and those conducting human studies, which could ensure that animal trials were better designed. For more: - read this press release on the study