Institute of Medicine releases report on chimps in research

February 2012

By Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director of the AVMA GRD

A report, called for by congressional members to deal with the heated fight occurring on Capitol Hill to end the use of chimps in research, was released at the end of 2011 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report, Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity," is an in-depth analysis of the "scientific necessity of chimpanzees for the National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded biomedical and behavioral research."

Legislation tackling this issue has already been introduced in Congress. H.R. 1513/S. 810, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, would end all "invasive research" on great apes and require the retirement of all federally-owned great apes, including chimpanzees.

The AVMA is opposed to the legislation because there is no funding mechanism in place that would provide for the long-term care of the retired animals; and that research focused on improving the health and welfare of affected species currently being conducted in zoological settings may be hindered.

The IOM report makes several recommendations and proposed that all future research involving chimpanzee meets three specific criteria: 1) that the knowledge gained must be necessary to advance the public's health; 2) there must be no other research model by which the knowledge could be obtained, and the research cannot be ethically performed on human subjects; and 3) the animals used in the proposed research must be maintained either in ethologically appropriate physical and social environments (i.e., as would occur in their natural environment) or in natural habitats. The NIH issued a statement following the release of the IOM report, accepting all of the committee's recommendations. NIH will not be issuing any new awards for research involving chimpanzees until processes for implementing the recommendations are developed.

Congress and the executive agencies will use this report as educational and scientific material to guide future policy decisions regarding chimpanzees and other great apes used in biomedical research.

The IOM, part of the National Academy of Sciences, is charged with providing objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.

For more information please contact Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

The AVMA Advocate - News Bites - February 2012