Drugs Regulator Seeks Reply on Near-Drowning Test on Animals Following PETA India Appeal

For Immediate Release:

8 March 2021


Dr Ankita Pandey; [email protected]

Hiraj Laljani; [email protected]

Pharmaceutical Associations Must Now Respond to Evidence That ‘Forced Swim Test’ Is Cruel and Unreliable

New Delhi – Following an appeal from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), in a significant step, has asked three major pharmaceutical associations in the country to respond to PETA India’s recommendation that the government not accept data for new drug development gathered 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”.

In its 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.

“Forcing frantic animals to swim for fear of drowning is both physically and psychologically abusive, and it is irrelevant to an understanding of depression in humans,” says PETA India Research Associate Dr Ankita Pandey. “India’s pharmaceutical companies should be using the best research methods possible, and that means human-relevant models, not terrorising vulnerable animals. PETA India looks forward to seeing our drug researchers join global industry leaders that have banned the cruel and archaic forced swim test.”

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.

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETAIndia.com or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.