(Nov. 19, 2012) — The Humane Society of the United States submitted a shareholder resolution urging Gilead Sciences, Inc., a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Foster City, Calif., to publicly commit to phasing out its use of chimpanzees in invasive research by Dec.15, 2013. Mounting evidence shows that research on chimpanzees is scientifically unnecessary.
“The number of chimpanzees in laboratories has declined drastically over the last decade due to high financial and ethical costs, public opposition and the increasing availability of more effective and faster alternative testing methods,” said Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS. “The world of science has moved on, and it is in Gilead’s best financial interest to move away from this practice.”
Last December, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released a report that concluded chimpanzees are not necessary for most biomedical and behavioral research and could not identify any area of current biomedical research for which chimpanzee use is essential. The report also laid out criteria by which necessity of chimpanzee use can be determined for current and future research.
A report presented at the 2011 European Association for the Study of the Liver’s annual meeting discussed Gilead Sciences use of chimpanzees housed at Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio to test GS-9620, a drug being developed to treat hepatitis B and C viruses. With non-chimpanzee models available to study treatments for both hepatitis B and C, this study would likely fail to meet the IOM criteria to establish necessity.
In a previous communication with The HSUS, a company spokesperson stated in early August that Gilead has no plans to use chimpanzees in hepatitis C research going forward, however Gilead has not responded to The HSUS’ multiple requests for information about whether the company intends to use chimpanzees for any other type of research.
GlaxoSmithKline and Idenix Pharmaceuticals, two companies that are developing therapies for hepatitis, have adopted policies ending their use of chimpanzees in research.
• Approximately 950 chimpanzees remain in five laboratories in the United States — the only remaining developed country that continues to use of these animals for invasive research and testing.
• Immediately following the release of the Institute of Medicine report, the National Institutes of Health halted any new funding for chimpanzee research while they work to implement the findings of the report. Since then, the NIH has declared approximately 20 percent of the government-owned chimpanzee population “permanently ineligible” for research.
• The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 1513/S. 810), legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate and House, would phase out invasive research on great apes and retire approximately 500 federally-owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to sanctuary.
• Through its partner The Fund for Animals, The HSUS provides permanent sanctuary to three chimpanzees formerly used in experiments at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas.