Ethical implications of using the minipig in regulatory toxicology studies

John Webster, Peter Bollen, Herwig Grimm, Maggy Jennings

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Two key questions are addressed in this article. What are the potential harms to minipigs relative to the harms for dogs and non-human primates and can these harms be reduced more easily in minipigs than in other species? Are there potential benefits resulting from the use of minipigs relative to dogs and non-human primates? In considering the answers to these questions, we present an ethical framework which was developed taking into account the viewpoint of all concerned parties. This ethical matrix provides a framework upon which to identify and explore issues raised by the moral imperative to seek a fair compromise between the differing needs of different interest groups, which includes both the moral agents and the moral patients. The moral agents are the different groups of human stakeholders including society at large, regulatory bodies, industrialists and animal care staff. The moral patients are the laboratory animals, both breeding stock held by the animal supplier, and experimental animals in laboratories. In considering these animals it cannot be assumed that dogs, monkeys and minipigs differ with regard to the pain and suffering that they may experience and undergo when treated in studies designed for safety assessment. On this basis we rejected the argument that minipigs are more acceptable experimental animals than dogs or monkeys despite the fact that their use may prove less offensive to some groups within society at large. Species selection must be made on a case-by-case basis where the benefits are assessed by weighing the scientific evidence relating to the predictivity of the animal model, against the harm that may accrue to the animals both from the test procedures and their lifetime experience within the laboratory environment. Within this context we recognise circumstances in which minipigs can become the species of choice, e.g. in "reproduction toxicology" trials. We also recognise their potential in new studies designed to improve the implementation of the "three R's" and any sound proposals for specific developments in this regard are to be encouraged.

1. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the organizations they represent.
2. This work was supported by the RETHINK project, a Special Support Action funded by the European Community 6th Framework Programme under contract no.: PL01877.
TidsskriftJournal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)160-6
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - 2010

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