Sydney – “The Forced Swim Test Has Poor Accuracy for Identifying Novel Antidepressants”. That’s the title and thrust of a new paper by PETA US neuroscientist and research associate Dr Emily Trunnell and psychologist Dr Constança Carvalho, published last week in the esteemed medical journal Drug Discovery Today.
The paper’s analysis shows that at the behest of 15 major pharmaceutical companies, more than 15,000 mice and other small animals were dosed with 109 different compounds and then subjected to the forced swim test – in which they were placed in inescapable beakers of water and made to swim to keep from drowning – yet the resulting data largely had no correspondence or relevancy to data collected from human trials. Not one of the 109 compounds is currently marketed to treat depressive disorders in humans.
“This paper should put the final nail in the coffin of the flawed forced swim test,” says Trunnell. “PETA is calling on any institution still forcing terrified animals to swim for their lives to stop wasting time and resources and get behind modern, human-relevant depression research, because people are suffering.”
After being privately presented with data from the paper, 15 companies as well as King’s College London and the University of Adelaide banned the forced swim test, and PETA is now pressuring Victoria University of Wellington, the universities of Western Australia and Queensland, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi to do the same.
During the forced swim test, animals will at some point stop swimming and start floating. Experimenters compare the amount of time swimming and floating, purportedly to glean insight into human depression and screen antidepressant drugs. Yet evidence and common sense tell us that floating is not a sign of depression or despair but is likely a positive indicator of learning, saving energy, and adapting to a new environment.
PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.au or follow the group on Facebook or Instagram.