Watchdog Criticizes CDC Plan to Use Animals in Study of Vaping / E-Cigarettes Health Crisis, Calls It ‘Unjustifiable, Unconscionable’

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Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research and Experimentation (CAARE) has submitted an eight page letter to the Center for Disease Control explaining why its decision to use live animals is “totally out of step with the current trend to reduce and eventually eliminate animal testing in regulatory toxicology studies”.

Given the severe limitations of animal tests to model human physiology and the availability of new technologies that perform better, it is unjustifiable – indeed unconscionable – for the CDC to call for the use of animal tests to address the vaping crisis.

A national watchdog group is criticizing what it calls a “unjustifiable...unconscionable” decision by the Center for Disease Control to use animals to study toxic compounds involved in the health crisis arising from e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI).

The CDC plan to use animals despite the “demonstrated failure of them to apply to human health” is scientifically unsupportable, said Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research and Experimentation (CAARE) in an eight-page letter (https://tinyurl.com/stql93q) to the CDC Director, Director of Division of Laboratory Sciences and Commissioner of the Food and Drug Association (FDA).

CAARE emphasized that the CDC’s decision to use live animals is “totally out of step with the current trend to reduce and eventually eliminate animal testing in regulatory toxicology studies,” citing “decades” of studies that have shown significant differences in the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory tract of humans and other animals make them unfit for studying human health challenges.

In fact, CAARE noted that animal testing is so unreliable that in 2018 the U.S. National Toxicology Program released a “Strategic Roadmap” advising regulatory agencies to “provide more human relevant toxicology data while reducing the use of animals.”

CAARE cited numerous options to the CDC, including in vitro assays, in silico approaches, computational chemistry, and a range of sophisticated tissue models that include 3D organoids and organs-on-chips. What is more, a broad range of biotech firms offer innovative and customizable platforms, such as Vitrocell®, which provide cigarette-smoking machines and robots that can study the impact of gases and other toxins on the lungs.

“These technologies stand in stark contrast to the shocking brutality of inhalation tests in which animals are confined in chambers or restraint tubes that fill with noxious vapors, choking them and burning sensitive tissues in the nose and throat,” said CAARE, citing examples such as mice placed in smoking chambers for five days a week for a year and conscious sheep nasally intubated to force them to inhale e-cigarette vapors. Government experiments are also being carried out on cats, ferrets and dogs to develop new vaping test systems.

“Given the severe limitations of animal tests, the availability of new technologies that perform better, and the implementation of the Strategic Roadmap to utilize more relevant human test methods, it is unjustifiable – indeed unconscionable – for the CDC to call for the use of animal tests to address the vaping crisis,” said Stagno.

CAARE added: “While the excuse for using animals is often that existing non-animal methods may not be perfect, animal tests are most certainly not perfect. By using combinations of advanced and human relevant alternative methods, CDC can arrive at the important goal of more efficient human-predictive testing to understand the threats associated with e-cigarettes and vaping.”

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Barbara Stagno
CAARE
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