Animal use in pharmacology education and research: The changing scenario

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Date: May-June 2014
From: Indian Journal of Pharmacology(Vol. 46, Issue 3)
Publisher: Medknow Publications and Media Pvt. Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,433 words
Lexile Measure: 1590L

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Byline: Dinesh. Badyal, Chetna. Desai

The use of animals in research and education dates back to the period when humans started to look for ways to prevent and cure ailments. Most of present day's drug discoveries were possible because of the use of animals in research. The dilemma to continue animal experiments in education and research continues with varied and confusing guidelines. However, the animal use and their handling vary in each laboratory and educational institution. It has been reported that the animals are being subjected to painful procedures in education and training unnecessarily. The extensive use of animals in toxicity studies and testing dermatological preparations has raised concerns about the ways animals are sacrificed for these "irrelevant experiments". On the other side of the coin are scientists who advocate the relevant and judicious use of animals in research so that new discoveries can continue. In this review, we discuss the evolution of the use of animals in education and research and how these have been affected in recent times owing to concerns from animal lovers and government regulations. A number of computer simulation and other models have been recommended for use as alternatives to use of animals for pharmacology education. In this review we also discuss some of these alternatives.


The mission of medicine is to eliminate suffering to maintain a good health, which may prolong the life. Drugs, an important tool in healthcare, are introduced in therapeutics after experimental evaluation. Since the beginning of humanity, the nature of human mind has led man to exploit his environment for his own requirements. Amidst endless efforts to expand his knowledge about living organisms, himself included, he began using animals for experimentation. Animal experiments, for long, have been an integral part of the pharmacology education at medical colleges in India. [sup][1] Thousands of animals are used annually in educational institutes despite efforts by concerned teachers and activists to reduce this number. Many medical schools in India and other countries have either introduced alternatives to these experiments or are deliberating on this contentious issue. [sup][2],[3]

There is a belief that just as medicine cannot be taught or learnt without exposure to wards and clinics, pharmacology cannot be taught without experimentation in animals. However, with changing trends in teaching methods and practices, it is increasingly felt that animals should not be sacrificed just to acquire skills and techniques of experimentation. These experiments are expensive, time consuming and tedious. [sup][3],[4] Also, the availability of animals is becoming sparse. Guidelines by Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Medical Council of India (MCI), suggest 3 Rs i.e., replacement, refinement and reduction in animal experiments, with the fourth R added, that is their rehabilitation, as an added measure for their care. [sup][5],[6],[7] In this changing scenario, development of alternatives are the need of the day. The use of live animal experiments is decreasing in many medical colleges across India. These are gradually being...

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