Washington Update

GAO Releases Report on Animals in Research

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, October 9, 2019

On September 24, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report, “Animal Use in Research: Federal Agencies Should Assess and Report on their Efforts to Develop and Promote Alternatives.”

At the request of various members of Congress, the GAO reviewed how the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration ensure sufficient consideration of animal alternatives – such as computational, in-vitro, and invertebrate methods – by researchers the agencies fund and oversee. For additional context, GAO officials interviewed organizations supporting humane treatment of animals in research, including FASEB (see page 7 of the report).

The report summarizes the information federal agencies require from investigators when submitting animal research proposals, including an explanation for why research goals cannot be pursued using alternative models. GAO details how federal agencies continue to collaborate with each other and other nonfederal stakeholders towards advancing non-animal alternatives. For example, the agencies participate in the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) committee with a mission to facilitate the  development and validation of alternatives.

Recognizing these interactions, GAO recommended that NIEHS establish an interagency work group to develop suitable metrics for assessing progress regarding alternative model development, a suggestion with which HHS concurred.