Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Unalleviated Pain or Distress (Discussion)

The three responses to “Categorizing pain and distress in a Parkinson's model,” agree that monkeys with MPTP-induced parkinsonianism should be listed in Category E because they are experiencing and enduring unalleviated pain or distress.

Ellen M. Levee:
This protocol should place all animals in the same category since they all undergo induction of a model of Parkinson's disease by MPTP. The category of pain or distress should be E (unalleviated pain or distress). This model is certainly associated with a degree of unalleviated distress since the animals require additional medical and husbandry assistance. Although the animals are given the additional attention, there is distress intrinsic to the model that is not eliminated by providing the necessary care.
Sylvia J. Singletary:
Listing the animals in Category E, however, seems to be the most appropriate based on the USDA guidelines.
Colleen A. Cody and Jessica Hoar:
The first group of animals receiving MPTP will not have therapeutic intervention to relieve their symptoms. They will receive supportive daily care, but this is not sufficient to be considered Category C because the care will not relieve their pain or distress. These animals should instead be considered Category E.
The respondants agree that monkeys treated with MPTP should be listed in Category E.

It is likely that none of these four writers are currently working at an institution using this procedure. I suspect that if they were, their opinions would be very different as is suggested by Plous and Herzog's evaluation of the reliability of IACUC's. [The abstract is not available, but extended excerpts can be read here.]

A search of the CRISP database reveals that a number of vivisectors are injecting monkeys with MPTP. Institutions approving this technique include:

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER (CHICAGO)
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH AT PITTSBURGH
CLEVELAND CLINIC LERNER COL/MED-CWRU
YALE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER
EMORY UNIVERSITY
MC LEAN HOSPITAL (BELMONT, MA)
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV HERSHEY MED CTR

Marina Elena Emborg is a long-time user of MPTP-treated monkeys. She is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, and Rush University. I mention this simply because a CRISP search for MPTP misses Emborg altogether.

Looking at APHIS Form 7023, we can get some idea of whether or not any of these institutions' IACUCs ever list MPTP-treated monkeys in Category E.

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY Never
RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER (CHICAGO) Never
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO (Very rarely. Only when the effect is "stronger than anticipated.")
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH AT PITTSBURGH Never
CLEVELAND CLINIC LERNER COL/MED-CWRU (CASE WESTERN RESERVE) Never
YALE UNIVERSITY Never
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER Never
EMORY UNIVERSITY (Never, based on one record inappropriately redacted.) (Emory's MPTP policy.)
MC LEAN HOSPITAL (HARVARD UNIVERSIY, BELMONT, MA) Never
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV HERSHEY MED CTR Never
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN Never

In all fairness, the records at APHIS Form 7023 are incomplete and poorly organized. This data set used to be much better, but following intense lobbying by the vivisection industry, the records were all taken off line. After some legal challenges, APHIS grudgingly put them back, but this time in a disorganized, unsearchable, slip-shod way; it's almost as if they don't want the public to inspect them (surprise, surprise.) Many records are missing. But it is highly unlikely that all of the missing records are specific to MPTP-treated monkeys.

What all of this makes pretty clear is that the data collected and disseminated to Congress by USDA-APHIS is pretty poor. For instance, the most current data available, a summary of the number of animals (of covered species) used in 2005 reports that of the reported 1,177,566 animals used, 84,662 experienced unalleviated pain or distress.

But clearly, given the fact that essentially no monkeys treated with MPTP, a procedure uniformily recognized to cause unalleviated pain or distress according to the Lab Animal article, were reported in Category E, the USDA-APHIS data is profoundly flawed. And this is the data Congress relies on to make informed decisions regarding laws governing animal care in American laboratories.

In all liklihood, the number of animals enduring unalleviated pain or distress is orders of magnitude higher than the 84,662 reported by USDA.

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