The National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued new guidelines for its postgraduate pharmacology curriculum, following recommendations from PETA India, which will spare the lives of countless animals nationwide. The guidelines recommend the use of several non-animal teaching and training methods and no longer make certain routine laboratory experiments on animals mandatory.
Following a major campaign by PETA India and others, animals are no longer used for undergraduate medical education in India. Thanks to the NMC’s new guidelines, much of postgraduate teaching and training will also no longer involve applying chemicals to animals’ skin or eyes or forcing them to inhale toxic fumes, deliberately infecting them with diseases, or mutilating them, after which they would often be killed via suffocation or neck dislocation.
In its letters to the NMC, PETA India pointed out that several studies by Indian medical schools confirm that non-animal methods are effective at meeting learning objectives, facilitate repeatability of the experiment, improve students’ comprehension of experimental concepts, enhance their retention capacity, and bypass many other issues encountered when experimenting on animals. PETA India also shared opportunities to replace animal tests with sophisticated, non-animal methods in the guidelines for teaching and training postgraduate pharmacology students.
According to the new guidelines, pharmacology students are now required to learn how to administer drugs by various routes and study the effects of drugs using simulation (computational models), replacing the use of rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs per previous guidelines. For some tests, such as studying drugs affecting memory and brain-coordinated movements, the guidelines recommend the use of human volunteers.
Furthermore, for experiments in which drugs or chemicals are rubbed into animals’ eyes or animals are deliberately infected with diseases, the new guidelines recommend using human-relevant in vitro and simulation models instead. For practical examinations, the guidelines suggest demonstrating the effects of drugs on and interpreting their results in humans instead of using other animals. The new guidelines also now recommend that students display “knowledge about the utility of computer assisted learning”.