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NEWS RELEASE November 2, 2004

PCRM Wins Lawsuit Over Government Secrecy

The public’s right to know the full details of federally funded animal research—even if those details are particularly gruesome—was upheld in a recent PCRM legal victory. This summer, PCRM’s legal team won a lawsuit against the federal government for withholding specifics about some hotly controversial animal experiments at Ohio State University (OSU). In October, the government finally released the previously redacted information to PCRM.

The case reinforces the long-standing, but long-ignored, legal principle that a noncommercial scientist’s grant application is not a trade secret and is subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. PCRM sued the government under FOIA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2001.

Publicly funded research should be in public domain

The scientist in question was Michael Podell, an OSU veterinarian whose government-funded cat experiments were so contentious they made headlines in Time magazine, The New York Times, and dozens of other publications.

Podell infected cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and then dosed them with methamphetamine, reportedly hoping 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. He subjected the cats to spinal taps and other stressful and painful procedures before killing them to examine their brains. Besides the obvious cruelty involved, Podell’s research was criticized for its many scientific limitations and the fact that it was duplicating already ongoing and more relevant clinical research.

The unredacted grant application included descriptions of exactly how Podell killed the cats. It also included a discussion of the problem of amphetamine-induced psychosis that can occur, and how the experimenters attempted to minimize the problem with an intermittent dosing regimen.

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

Related Links:
U.S. District Court order
in Podell case (PDF)

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