Beginning in January 2013, Abbott's proprietary pharmaceuticals business separated into an independent, publicly traded biopharmaceutical company called AbbVie. With this separation, Abbott's use of laboratory animals has significantly decreased. However, the FDA and other regulatory agencies still require animal safety and efficacy data for many of the innovative products we bring to patients today.
Abbott continues to be committed to the highest standards of humane care and treatment of all laboratory animals. Our laboratory animal research programs and facilities meet or exceed U.S. and European Union regulations, as well as those in other countries.
While animal testing is critically important to advancing healthcare research, Abbott consistently works to minimize the number and frequency of animal tests required and to develop new testing methods and programs to minimize the need for animal models. Abbott’s Corporate Animal Welfare Committee, composed of animal welfare experts from across the company, guides our position and global policies on animal use. Abbott’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee serves as a review board that independently evaluates and approves our internal scientific protocols before animal use can begin.
For more than 35 years, Abbott also sought and maintained accreditation from the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), the organization that helps ensure optimal animal care and use practices as set forth in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and other international standards and regulations for animal welfare. AAALAC accreditation is entirely voluntary and is widely considered to be the preferred method to meet and maintain high standards of animal care and use. Following the separation of AbbVie, Abbott is again participating in the accreditation process with AAALAC in 2013.
Advancing the 3R's
Abbott employs the 3Rs approach to animal research by looking for ways to Refine, Reduce and Replace the use of animals. Whenever possible, we adopt alternatives (the 3Rs) to animal research by:
- Refining experimental procedures to avoid or minimize pain or distress
- Reducing the number of animals used in any tests conducted to the minimum necessary for valid results
- Replacing the need for animal testing through non-animal research methods
Currently, Abbott uses cell-based (in vitro) alternative methods that replace whole-animal (in vivo) testing whenever possible. When these in vitro methods show a compound or technology to be toxic or less effective than others, that particular compound or technology can often be eliminated from further testing in animals. However, we have an ethical obligation to fully understand the potential health benefits of our products versus the risk of negative effects.
We have several policies, committees and structures in place that allow us to effectively follow the 3Rs:
- Abbott’s Global Animal Welfare Policy guides our internal processes and protocols.
- Abbott’s Supplier Guidelines outline expectations for our animal-related suppliers and contract laboratories – including the expectation that animal use in any testing or process should occur only after alternate methods have been fully explored and rejected.
To complement our own research initiatives, Abbott also has provided funds in recent years to a number of organizations focused on promoting the 3Rs and raising awareness of the importance of responsible biomedical research, including the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine Foundation, the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research and the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
Policy on the Use Of Chimpanzees in Animal Research
Currently, Abbott is not using chimpanzees in any research, and we have no plans to use chimpanzees in the foreseeable future. Abbott fully commits to not using chimpanzees except in the event that future research requires studies for which there is no other suitable model available; that cannot be performed ethically in humans; and without which important advancements will be significantly slowed or prevented.
We fully support the findings of the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report and will ensure compliance with the IOM Report’s recommendations, which highlight significant advances in the development of alternatives. A diverse group of stakeholders, from animal welfare advocates to research scientists, have applauded the IOM Report’s objective approach to assessing the need for chimpanzees as animal models. Abbott also has provided funds and products to Chimp Haven for the care of retired research chimpanzees.