• Question: Have any animals you have ever used died from any experiments and would it have been better for medicine that just tasted horrible than for animals to die?

    Asked by anon-252069 to Robert on 22 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Robert Ives

      Robert Ives answered on 22 Jun 2020: last edited 22 Jun 2020 12:52 pm

      Hi – good question.

      I have never had an animal die or become ill from taste testing a potential medicine. Before I give anything to my taste tester rats, I always make sure we already have some safety data first and that they can only take a safe amount. The rats are only given a very short time (a few seconds) to try each medicine and in this time they cannot drink enough to harm them.

      The problem with horrible tasting medicine is that so many people will not take it, even if that medicine is going to save their lives – sounds unbelievable but it’s true. Around 90% of young children (up to around age 11) and 30% of adults will not take all of their medicine if it tastes really bad. Even if you only miss one in every four of your doses, you will not be getting the medicine you need and you will probably not get better, so making sure a medicine (particularly in children) tastes ‘OK’ is actually really important.

      In some other animal studies animals might become ill and might die. This is not nice but we always have lots of vets and animal carers available to make sure the animals do not unnecessarily suffer. Potential medicines are tested on animals to make sure (as much as we can) that they are safe and that they might help us to feel better or cure a disease. It is incredibly important that we don’t give untested medicines to humans because it could harm them and there are laws in every country that say medicines must be safety tested (usually in animals) before we are allowed to give them to any human. Even the COVID-19 treatments currently being tested in humans have all been tested in animals already.

      When we use animals in experiments, it is very important that we only use them when there is no other way to answer the particular question that we are asking. As scientists, we have to be able to show how using an animal will benefit humans or other animals and also design our experiment in the best way, using the least number of animals to get the most information before we are allowed to carry out any experiment. Even then, we must always make sure that animals are well looked after and cared for at all times and that our vets are available to help out whenever they are needed.