News: Action Alerts

Project R&R Responds to hepatitis C Drug

December 9, 2009 • Posted in Action Alerts

On December 2, 2009, scientists at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR), now known as Texas Biomedical Research Institute, reported that the experimental drug SPC3649 (developed by Santaris Pharma) was effective against hepatitis C in chimpanzees. According to the results from the study, the drug caused a substantial decrease in the level of virus present in the blood of the chronically infected chimpanzees. The Los Angeles Times released a story on the study stating, “The antiviral, which is already being tested for safety in humans, has exhibited no toxic side effects and has not allowed development of resistance, a characteristic that plagues other treatments.”

Read the LA Times story.
While the possibility of a drug to treat hepatitis C is welcome news, according to Dr. Jarrod Bailey, Science Director of Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in Laboratories, there was no necessity and is no justification for having used chimpanzees in this research.

In response, Project R&R submitted a Letter to the Editor of the LA Times (see below).

To read our full position, click here.

Letter to the Editor:

Your December 4th story (1) on an experimental antiviral drug, SPC3649, was reported as decreasing hepatitis C virus (HCV) in chimpanzees, with scientists hoping results will be mirrored in humans, leading to the first effective hepatitis C treatment.  In 2006, human liver tissue culture experiments, demonstrated the drug’s potential to decrease HCV infection (2). It has been tested in African green monkeys (3) and mice (4), and is being tested in human clinical trials (5). So why was a chimpanzee study necessary?

Given the differences between humans’ and chimpanzees’ course of HCV infection, and the lack of relevance of chimpanzee data to humans (e.g., in HIV/AIDS vaccine research), there is no scientific justification for this chimpanzee research. Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, home to this study (6), receives millions each year to house and maintain chimpanzees, leaving the bogus need for their use even more suspect.

Theodora Capaldo, EdD
Jarrod Bailey, PhD


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