Citing Deaths of Lab Monkeys, F.D.A. Ends an Addiction Study

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Squirrel monkeys contemplating a box in a zoo in Budapest, Hungary. Nicotine experiments funded by the F.D.A. resulted in the deaths of four monkeys like these. Attila Kovacs/European Pressphoto Agency

The deaths of four squirrel monkeys used as subjects in a nicotine addiction study has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to shut down the research permanently and to establish a council to oversee all animal studies under the agency’s purview.

“It is clear the study was not consistent with the agency’s high animal welfare standards,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, said in a statement on Friday. “These findings indicate that F.D.A.’s animal program may need to be strengthened in some important areas.”

Dr. Gottlieb has called in an independent investigator to examine the agency’s animal research programs, starting with those at the National Center for Toxicological Research, in Arkansas, where the squirrel monkeys were housed. The 20 or so study animals will be transferred to a sanctuary, the commissioner said.

Federally funded medical research that relies on animals has been contentious for years. The National Institutes for Health has banned the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research and has retired hundreds of lab chimps, some of which have been moved to sanctuaries. The N.I.H. continues to finance research on other nonhuman primates for studies of neurobiology, metabolic illness and other ailments.

F.D.A. researchers are continuing other primate studies, the agency said, although Dr. Gottlieb said he wanted to reduce reliance on them.

Source: The New York Times