Select Committee on Animals In Scientific Procedures Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by Professor Vernon Coleman

  1.  During the hearing on Tuesday Lord Soulsby expressed the view that peer review procedures mean that there is very little incompetent or inaccurate research material published these days. I promised to let you have evidence to counter this. I have a number of books/papers which could be produced in evidence but to simplify matters I can recommend one book called "Fraud and Misconduct in Medical Research" published by the BMJ.[4] This book is particularly relevant because it is edicted by Dr Stephen Lock, a former editor of the BMJ and Dr Frank Wells, Medical Director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. On 5 October 1991 the British Medical Journal carried an editorial reporting that "only about 15 per cent of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence" and "only 1 per cent of the articles in medical journals are scientifically sound".[5] That is not a misprint. The figures are, respectively,15 per cent and 1 per cent and they were published in the BMJ. I don't think anyone would argue that things have improved since 1991. Indeed, most independent observers would argue that they have deteriorated.

  2.  The question of the validity of toxicology was also raised. In 1991 "Prescribers Journal" (published, I think, by the Government) reported that: "The predictive value for man of toxicological testing in animals is open to question". When the drug company Roussel was taken to court by the British government because of claims for an anti-arthritis drug called Surgam the company was asked to produce evidence for its claims. The only evidence produced by Roussel was from experimental studies on two animal tissues. Even the expert witnesses called by Roussel in its defence testified that data from animals could not be extrapolated safely to patients. (There is much more evidence of this type available—a good deal of it in my book "Betrayal of Trust"). The journal "Hospital Doctor" reported in May 1993 that: "The discipline (clinical pharmacology) first evolved from the recognition that studies in rats do not give doctors enough information about the way drugs really behave in the human body." The BMA book "The BMA Guide To Living With Risk" told readers that: "if salt and sugar were being tested as potential food additives today, and if judgement of acceptability was to be based purely on the laboratory and animal testing, it is unlikely that either would be permitted for use in food." Finally, American toxicologist David Salsburg has shown that the standard test used on rats gives results which can be applied to human beings just 38 per cent of the time. This means that 62 per cent of the time the results animal experiments produce are wrong. And we don't know which results are good and which are bad. Tossing a coin would at least give a 50 per cent chance of success. My book "Why Animal Experiments Must Stop" contains many quotations from other doctors who believe that animal testing is irrelevant and misleading for this reason.

  3.  During the hearing the very valid point was raised that I seem to be arguing alone against the might of the pharmaceutical industry and much of the medical establishment. I think it is perhaps worth pointing out that I have in the past debated this issue many time in public and on TV with vivisectors and supporters of vivisection. On the occasions when the debate has been followed by a vote I have always won the vote by a substantial margin. For some years now vivisectors have refused to debate with me in public—despite many challenges. I think it is also relevant to point out that I have a good track record of being right when the medical establishment has been wrong. For example, I was the first doctor in the UK to point out that benzodiazepine tranquillisers were causing a serious addiction problem. When (after my 15 year campaign) a Conservative Governement took action they admitted that they had done so because of my articles. On many other occasions my predictions and warnings were later proved accurate—even though for many years they were opposed by the medical establishment. I was, for example, the first doctor to warn that Mad Cow Disease would and could affect humans and the first to draw attention to the hazard of drug residues in drinking water. Just because the medical establishment doesn't agree with me it doesn's necessarily follow that the medical establishment is right and I am wrong.

  4.  During the presentation from Dr Troy Seidle, the Earl of Onslow asked a question about "informed consent". I think it is relevant to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that if "informed consent" is used to identify creatures suitable for experimentation babies, infants and the mentally ill will fall into the same category as rats, mice, cats and monkeys.

  5.  It is also relevant to point out that although I recently challenged the vivisection community to produce one patient whose life had been saved by vivisection, and who would have died without vivisection, they could not do so. The challenge was widely published.

  6.  I realise that the fundamental question I raised on Tuesday is probably outside the remit of the Committee. But if the Committee felt that the question I raised (which can be summarised as: "Why does animal experimentation continue when inconvenient results, showing that a drug or other product causes harm to an animal, are simply ignored?) is worth studying perhaps it could suggest to the Government that another Committee be formed with a request that this crucial question be addressed.






4   BMJ Publishing Group (London, 1993). Back

5   BMJ Vol 303 pp 798-99. Back

previous page contents

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002