Lethal dose test won't be used for party pills

Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012
Peter Dunne
REALLY?: Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says "it is an unpleasant but necessary reality".
Mathers
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax NZ
MOJO MATHERS: The deaf Canterbury MP was elected to Parliament in 2011.

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Testing of party pills on animals remains an option but Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has ruled out using a "barbaric and disgusting" test where doses of the drug increase until half the test group dies.

The lethal dose (LD50) test is banned in Britain and is not recognised by the OECD.

Mr Dunne initially said it was "unavoidable" that party pills would be tested on animals, including dogs. But he confirmed yesterday that the LD50 test would not be used, labelling it barbaric and disgusting.

"I have further made it clear there have been no decisions on other forms of animal tests and I have directed officials to look at alternatives," Mr Dunne said.

Animal testing would remain an option but Mr Dunne stressed there was a long process of consultation to undertake.

Novel recreational drugs, or party pills, are exempt from the rules applied to pharmaceutical companies, which must prove drugs are safe for human use.

Until now, it has been up to the Government to prove party pills are unsafe but it wants to change the law, putting the burden on manufacturers to prove the pills will not cause harm.

According to a Health Ministry report, "Regulations governing the control of novel psychoactive drugs", outlining what testing would be needed under the law change, a designer drug "must" go through pre-clinical animal studies and it is "critical" to show a drug is safe for animals before it can be given to humans.

"At the study's completion, animals are sacrificed and tissues from all organ systems examined," the paper said.

Mr Dunne had said: "The Government is committed to minimal use of animal testing, but the hard truth is that scientifically, animal testing is unavoidable to prove that products are safe for human beings."

The news has disgusted animal rights advocates.

Green Party MP Mojo Mathers also described it as "barbaric".

"I really encourage people who feel that testing of party pills on dogs and other animals is unethical to speak out against this proposal."

SPCA Auckland chief executive Bob Kerridge also urged New Zealanders to force officials into banning the trials.

"Any test at all for this product on animals is, quite frankly, abhorrent," Mr Kerridge said.

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"This is a product that is of no benefit to humans. In addition to doing considerable harm to the animals, it has no beneficial outcome whatsoever. Therefore, [the testing] should not be allowed."

Legislation detailing the testing regime will be voted on early next year, following select committee debate that will allow for a period of public consultation.

- The Dominion Post

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