New Leader, Same Old British Union Against Vivisection

Back in August, this site noted the hiring of Italian animal rights activist Adolfo Sansolini to head the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. Different idiot at the helm, but the same old lies from BUAV.

In a letter to The Herald (Glasgow), Sansolini makes the typically absurd case against animal research,

Take the case of Aids, for example. It is well known that immunodeficiency viruses act differently in different species. It’s only humans who suffer from full-blown Aids, and most other animals are not even able to contract HIV. Yet research with primates still continues, even though virtually all of the breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of Aids have come from studies not involving animals, and species differences mean that research into cancer and Alzheimer’s and other diseases involving animals is a poor predictor of the disease in humans, and scientifically dubious. That’s one of the reasons that lead us to oppose all animal experiments, because they are an obstacle to the development of more scientific and reliable methods, which could really help to save lives.

Presumably the rabbit antiserum that played a key role in initially isolating HIV and then serving as the basis for a diagnostic test for detecting the disease was vegan rabbit antiserum. In fact, animals have played a central role in many areas of HIV research.

If you’ve ever had an HIV test, you’ve had a test that relies on animal antibodies at some point in the diagnosis determination.

Sansolini also leaves out some important information about the early 1990s withdrawal of manoplax (flosequinan). In Sansolini’s version,

Manoplax (flosequinan), for example, was a new drug for congestive heart failure launched in 1992. It was licensed for general prescription in the UK and the US, but withdrawn in July 1993 after human trials showed that it increased death rates. Manoplax was extensively tested using animals, including rats, rabbits, cats, baboons, dogs, guinea-pigs and ferrets.

First, as is typical with BUAV, Sansolini has his facts wrong. Manoplax never received “general prescription” approval in the United States. In fact, the FDA approved it to be used only in the patients suffering from congestive heart failure who could not tolerate existing treatments, and even then it had to carry a prominent warning on its label.

Second, Sansolini forgets to mention — for whatever reason — that manoplax also underwent almost a decade of clinical testing in human beings prior to approval.

What happened with manoplax? Congestive heart failure is not a curable condition, and manoplax did not attempt to cure it. Rather, what it did was provide a better quality of life for people with CHF. The downside was that when it was finally used in a post-approval trial of 3,000 people, it also turned out to significantly increase the risk of mortality.

Dr. Robert Fenichel, who worked with the FDA analyzing new drug applications, did a good job of outlining the sort of risks and benefits that the FDA and drug companies must weigh when approving drugs for diseases like congestive health failure. The New York Times asked Fenichel about how the FDA approaches cases where a drug has high risks but also conveys great benefits upon patients. He responded,

The most dramatic case, I think, was a drug called flosequinan, made by Boots Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, for congestive heart failure. People with severe congestive heart failure are terribly disabled. Some cannot even walk across a room without becoming desperately short of breath, and their median survival from diagnosis is only two or three years. Flosequinan really made patients feel lots better. They stayed out of the hospital and they could move around.

And the drug increased mortality, by about 50 percent. I mean really a lot. They died of their congestive failure sooner than people who weren’t taking the drug.

Well, we thought about this, and the results with respect to feeling better were so impressive that people in the division thought, Gee, if I had that disease, I would want that drug. Now not everyone said that. But many people in the division thought, I would want that drug.

And so it was approved. And the company finally lost its nerve, and they never marketed it.


Why animal research testing is unreliable. Adolfo Sansolini, The Herald (UK), February 2, 2005.

A Conversation with Robert Fenichel. Denise Grady, The New York Times, March 6, 2001.

Manoplax: from heart to heartbreak. Patrick Hosking, The Independent, July 25, 1993.

Boots ‘unlucky’ over heart treatment drug. William Tinning, The Herald (Glasgow), July 20, 1993.

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