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NEWS RELEASE February 20, 2002

Doctors File Three New Complaints Over Controversial Cat Experiments

Health Advocates File with USDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Ohio State University

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will file three separate complaints tomorrow over a controversial set of cat experiments underway at Ohio State University. In addition, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., will testify about the faulty approval process that sanctioned the cat study, as well as its broader implications for all animal experiments, at a National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse meeting today in Bethesda, Md.

The experiments under debate involve dosing live cats with methamphetamine ("speed"), a drug of abuse, and then infecting them with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). The study was designed by Michael Podell, an Ohio State veterinarian, who claims he hopes to create an "animal model" showing the brain damage known to occur in humans who are both drug abusers and infected with the AIDS virus. Dr. Podell is subjecting the cats to spinal taps and other stressful and painful procedures before killing them to examine their brains. The dispute over these experiments is the focus of growing controversy and has been reported in Nature, The Washington Post, and other media outlets.

PCRM's three new complaints are the second step in its campaign to expose the scientific inadequacies of Dr. Podell's study. The organization filed a lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health in December under the Freedom of Information Act for concealing crucial data about Dr. Podell's work that should be available to the public.

PCRM's upcoming complaints to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Ohio State University, all address Dr. Podell's failure to adequately search for alternatives to the use of animals, as required by federal law. The complaints call for an immediate suspension of Dr. Podell's work pending an investigation by an impartial panel of public health and animal welfare experts.

"Investigators are legally required to conduct an adequate search for alternatives to the use of animals," says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. "Had this experimenter done so, he would have found that all the key research questions can be addressed in ethical research in human patients."

"Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act to obligate investigators and research facilities to reduce the use of, as well as the pain and distress imposed on, animals used in research," says Mindy Kursban, PCRM's legal counsel. "The apparent lip service that Ohio State University and Dr. Podell have given this very serious mandate is inexcusable."

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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