Following an appeal from PETA India, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), in a significant step, has asked three major pharmaceutical associations in the country to respond to our recommendation that the government not accept data for new drug development using mice, rats, or other animals in the widely discredited forced swim test (FST) and instead use reliable human-relevant models. In the FST, animals are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim, before they become relatively immobile and float. Animals who spend more time immobile instead of struggling, during a specified period, are considered to have “given up” or “lost hope”.
Can you imagine being trapped in a small container of water and forced to swim for your life?
Countless mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils are used for cruel tests like this.
— PETA India (@PetaIndia) May 27, 2020
In our recommendation – which the DCGI forwarded to the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association, the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, and the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance – PETA India points out that the FST has been heavily criticised by scientists who argue that floating is not a sign of depression, as some claim, but rather a positive indicator of learning or saving energy when faced with a potentially life-threatening situation, such as drowning. Statistically, the test is less accurate than a coin toss in determining whether a potential medicine will have antidepressant properties in humans.
Following appeals from PETA India’s international affiliates, numerous leading pharmaceutical companies – including AbbVie Inc, Astraea Therapeutics, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Roche, and Sage Therapeutics – have banned the FST.