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Most Outrageously Superfluous


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Monkeys pumped with PCP to study “schizophrenia”

Our Most Outrageously Superfluous award goes to a team of eight scientists from Yale University, UCLA, and pharmaceutical giants Merck and Pfizer. Their research was conducted on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts where wild caught monkeys are captured and used at the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation.

These researchers conducted a totally redundant study that attempts to show that the drug asenapine can diminish the cognitive effects of PCP, a hallucinogenic recreational drug also known as “angel dust.”

PCP was administered to the monkeys for two weeks, purportedly to mimic the cognitive impairments seen in schizophrenia, and then asenapine was administered for four weeks to reverse the effects of the PCP. But asenapine had already been identified as a drug of treatment for schizophrenia in people and was well into human clinical trials before this monkey research started. So what was the justification for this research?

Adolescent monkeys were trained to perform an object retrieval task. They were then injected with PCP at 15 to 30 times the common human recreational dose. Researchers claim that “no distressful effects of PCP were observed at the dosage used in this study.” Which begs the question: exactly how does one know what a monkey experiences on a hallucinogenic drug? And PCP is almost never injected; it is almost always smoked, further negating any correlation between the monkeys’ PCP experience and that of people.

Object retrieval trials continued throughout the study to evaluate cognition and motor skills. The monkeys were then killed, and their brains analyzed.

The researchers concluded that their results support “the potential for asenapine to reduce cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia.” But schizophrenia is merely a name for a concert of possible symptoms. Diagnosis in humans is based on interviews with the patient and family members; the scientists report no interviews with the monkeys.

Why would scientists need to travel 3,600 miles to experiment on monkeys when the U.S. government already provides them with very large monkey colonies throughout the country? Maybe they just wanted a taxpayer-funded vacation on an island paradise.

Multiple grants supported this research, from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and National Center for Research Resources. One NIMH grant alone provided more than $525,000 in 2011 for this study.

In addition to federal funding, researchers disclose in their “Conflicts of interest” statement that this was an industry-sponsored project. The two principal investigators received grant funding from Pfizer and Merck. One is a consultant to Pfizer.

What You Can Do

Please help IDA in speaking out about the millions of dollars that fund this sort of outrageously wasteful and terribly cruel research on animals. It’s time to put a stop to it. The US economy is in crisis, making this even more urgent to address.

Click here to contact your US Senators and Congressperson. Ask for much stricter oversight for granting money to animal research. Insist that all NIH-funded experiments comply with its stated mission “to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.”

You can also call your elected officials. Find their phone numbers, or call the US Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

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Elsworth JD, Groman SM, Jentsch JD, Valles R, Shahid M, Wong E, Marston H, Roth RH. “Asenapine effects on cognitive and monoamine dysfunction elicited by subchronic phencyclidine administration.” Neuropharmacology. 2012 Mar; 62(3):1442-52.