Why You Should Know About ICCVAM

The Rise for Animals Team, October 10, 2018

Every year, somewhere between 25 and 100 million animals are killed in U.S. laboratories after suffering through cruel and unnecessary experiments. But many scientists agree that animal testing should be a thing of the past. It inflicts horrific suffering and doesn’t give us results that are reliable or relevant—the failure rate during the drug development process, for example, exceeds 95%.

To help end cruel and wasteful animal testing, nearly 20 years ago U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) passed the ICCVAM Authorization Act, which established the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). ICCVAM encompasses 16 federal agencies and requires that each of these agencies identify, promote, and adopt non-animal testing methods.

Though in its earlier years, ICCVAM wasn’t the more forward-thinking group that it has become today—and it’s crucial that it continues to push toward higher standards and faster progress—but in recent years ICCVAM has made commendable progress in ending animal testing (check out its 2017 Biennial Progress Report), including testing for allergic contact dermatitis, acute systemic toxicity, endocrine disruptors, and more. In 2018, ICCVAM also released the groundbreaking Strategic Roadmap for Establishing New Approaches to Evaluate the Safety of Chemicals and Medical Products in the United States, which lays out clear pathways to accomplish its overarching goal:

“To expedite the use of 21st-century science to protect and improve public health, federal agencies and stakeholders will work together to build a new framework to enable development, establish confidence in, and ensure use of new approaches to toxicity testing that improve human health relevance and reduce or eliminate the need for testing in animals.”

Unfortunately, ICCVAM’s unclear reporting requirements create challenges when it comes to accountability and transparency. This makes it nearly impossible for the public to evaluate ICCVAM’s progress. In fact, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that the FDA is still forcing companies to perform unnecessary animal tests and is refusing to accept data submissions from more effective non-animal safety tests.

But Rep. Calvert, the original sponsor of ICCVAM, has a solution: the FACT Act (HR 816). Introduced in Congress in 2017, this legislation would require ICCVAM to provide more detailed descriptions of its work on alternative methods, including, critically, an accounting of ALL animals used in labs, even those not covered by the Animal Welfare Act like birds, mice, and rats.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog to learn more about the FACT Act. We’ll explain how you can help get it signed into law, and describe our related work supporting scientists working to end animal testing.