AP NEWS

US congressmen urge FDA halt monkey testing at Arkansas lab

March 27, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration must halt all primate experimentation at an Arkansas laboratory until allegations of negligence and abuse are properly addressed, U.S. congressmen demanded in a bipartisan call for action.

U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, and Brendan Boyle, of Pennsylvania, submitted a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb March 21 after they learned of the Aug. 3 death of a 5-year-old rhesus monkey at the National Center for Toxicological Research near Pine Bluff, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Enough is enough,” Gaetz, a Republican, said Tuesday. “Taxpayers are sick and tired of the government’s multimillion-dollar monkey business, and I’m proud to lead bipartisan efforts to cut wasteful and abusive primate research at the FDA.”

A nicotine-addiction study at the lab started in 2014 with 24 male squirrel monkeys — 12 adults and 12 adolescents — but Gottlieb permanently terminated that study in January 2018 after four of the animals died. The surviving primates from that study were retired to a sanctuary in Florida.

But monkeys are still being used in other tests at the Jefferson County facility.

Gaetz and Boyle, a Democrat, wrote to Gottlieb on Oct. 26 “applauding” his decision to halt nicotine testing on primates at the lab.

But in their March letter, they said the death in August of a monkey involved in another test suggested “a persistent lack of proper oversight, animal care and training” at the center. The director of the center said the animal was accidentally strangled when it was left in a restraint chair in a test chamber.

Gottlieb has resigned from the FDA, effective in April. He did not return a request for comment on Tuesday. Norman “Ned” Sharpless will serve as interim commissioner.

Advocates for ending animal testing urged the lawmakers to keep up the pressure on the agency.

“Over 1 million of our supporters have asked Congress and the FDA to stop wasteful primate testing and retire the animals to sanctuaries, and we’re grateful to Reps. Boyle and Gaetz for continuing to hold the FDA accountable for its taxpayer-funded animal abuse,” said Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, an alliance that aims to stop government spending on animal experiments.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com