Alternative in vitro methods slowly gaining traction for some tests
Companies sharing safety data and developing cell-, tissue- and organ-based test protocols has helped reduce the need for animal testing required by the European regulations on registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (Reach), according to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) campaign group says that some available alternatives are not yet being properly employed.
Every three years, the ECHA reports on progress into fulfilling the requirements of Reach using alternatives to animal testing. The most common ways of doing this include: inferring risk from data on similar compounds (‘read-across’); combining evidence from multiple sources; computer modelling of structure-activity relationships; and in vitro alternatives to live animal tests.
The ECHA says that companies sharing data and public consultation over proposed animal tests has allowed firms in some cases to fulfil their registration requirements without going through with the tests. However, the agency notes that 293 new animal tests were undertaken without this consultation, which the ECEAE calls ‘unacceptable’.
The agency also claims that a growing number of companies are using in vitro tests for skin and eye irritation and skin corrosion. However, the ECEAE points out that many of these tests are still being performed on rabbits, so the ECHA should be doing more to make sure companies make use of the available in vitro tests.