Row over research

Controversy over use of animals for medical experiments hots up

Published: Sunday 31 March 2002

RESEARCHERS and regulators are at daggers drawn over wielding the scalpel on animals for medical experimentation. Even as the former recently staged a protest against the control regime for its being "excessively" strict, the latter countered by raising the ethical aspect of the issue.

Scientists from bodies such as AIIMS (All-India Institute of Medical Sciences), National Institute of Immunology and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) have charged the Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA) with unnecessarily delaying research. They also feel that they are not able to develop sufficient skills because enough animals are not made available for experiments. Another one of their grouses deals with CPCSEA nominees, who they feel are not qualified and tend to take too much of an idealistic stand.

According to Camellia Satija, CPCSEA nominee at AIIMS, the allegations are baseless. She reveals that the rules and regulations have been formulated after close consultations with a group of scientists, which include the AIIMS director. More than 97 per cent of the protocols are cleared without any problem. Each case is considered on the basis of parameters such as experiments not being repetitive, the number of animals not exceeding the stipulated number and the research being extrapolated for the welfare of human beings. Permission is denied only when researchers flout any of these rules, points out Satija. Earlier, a case had been filed in the Delhi High Court by AIIMS scientists, alleging that the CPCSEA was impeding research. It will now be heard in July 2002.

Experts opine that there are enough alternatives to ensure that animals are not used for most of the experiments. In vitro toxicological testing methods, tissue culture techniques and biotechnological processes are some options.

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