How Well Do Animal Studies Predict Human Safety?

 In Boaz Blog

Animal testing has played a crucial role in the medical and physiological fields for years. Despite contributing to many medical and scientific advances, animal welfare organization and even governmental agencies have worked tirelessly to reduce or eliminate the use of animal studies by researchers. Pharmaceutical companies, in particular, face increased pressure to limit their use of animal testing. Elsevier, a notable analytics company, is using big data to examine how well animal studies predict human safety.

The Big Data Study

Elsevier worked with Bayer for this study. The goal was to see how predictive animal testing is versus testing on humans. They compared data from preclinical animal studies to data from human clinical trials. In this study, Elsevier analyzed more than 3,000 drugs and looked at adverse effects in humans, as well as in the five animals most commonly used in animal testing. By better understanding the effectiveness of animal testing, we can reduce unnecessary animal studies. That is the ultimate goal.

Findings from the Study

One major finding from the study was that some adverse effects witnessed in animals were not experienced by humans. The study also showed some human organs had more similarities with animals than others. For example, side effects related to the heart were very similar for humans and the other animals tested but there were more differences when they looked at the gallbladder. Every species has its own unique biology and physiology, so medications and other drugs don’t always have the same effect on every species. It is important to understand which animal species are best at predicting adverse effects in humans. Testing on animals that can’t accurately predict effects in humans is unnecessary.

The study is important because big pharma comes out with thousands of new drugs each year. All of these drugs come with side effects. Researchers need consistent ways to predict these effects so they can make the drugs safer and more effective for recipients. The prominence of data and analytics in this digital age makes this task easier. Researchers have access to more data and have better tools for analyzing that data. This will allow them to better understand medications and their effect on humans, allow them to develop better drugs, and hopefully reduce the need for unnecessary animal testing.

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Photo credit: Gary Bendig, Unsplash

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