The Irish Anti-Vivisection Society (IAVS) and colleagues in the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) are welcoming news that French pharmaceutical company Ipsen has received approval in August 2018 to move away from severely cruel live animal tests to use a cell-based method to test botox products sold in the EU and Switzerland. The new test method replaces the controversial LD50 (Lethal Dose) poisoning test in which groups of mice are injected in the abdomen with different dosages and suffocate slowly through muscle paralysis while fully conscious. A significant proportion of these animal botox tests have been taking place in Ireland, where in 2016 up to 167,589 of these types of test took place.
The IAVS and ECEAE have campaigned against the use of mice in cruel poisoning tests for botulinum toxin (commonly known as botox) for several years. At this year’s seventh annual European Week of Action the ECEAE urged Ipsen to implement a humane animal-free test for its botox products DYSPORT® and AZZALURE®, developed for Swiss-based food and drinks conglomerate Nestlé.
Ipsen came under scrutiny in 2009 when British group Cruelty Free International highlighted the suffering of the mice used in these batch tests at the company’s contracted facility in the UK. The undercover investigation by Cruelty Free International exposed the laboratory for killing mice on the floor with pens and failing to monitor the mice to prevent extreme suffering. A UK Government investigation found Wickham to be in breach of their licence by causing unnecessary animal suffering. Nonetheless they continued to licence the laboratory to use up to 100,000 mice in these tests every year.
Allergan was the first botox company to develop and implement a cell-based alternative test in Ireland in 2011. Since then Ipsen have been working on a similar test to use for their own products. According to a statement released by Ipsen on 27 August 2018, regulatory authorities in the EU and Switzerland have now approved the use of an in vitro Cell-Based Assay (CBA) for establishing the stability and the potency of both DYSPORT® and AZZALURE®. Both products are prescription drugs containing botulinum toxin type A. DYSPORT® is used for both medicinal purposes and in cosmetic procedures, AZZALURE® is used solely for cosmetic purposes.
Yvonne Smalley, Chairperson of the IAVS, commented: “Shamefully, Ireland has been the European centre for these vicious and gratuitous animal tests for the last decade, making it the cruelty capital of Europe. We hope that Ipsen’s new non-animal test will save hundreds of thousands of animals from suffering for these vanity products in the coming years. But this is long overdue and other companies are still testing botox on animals in Irish labs. We urge the Irish Government to start taking this issue seriously and be pro-active in eliminating these barbaric procedures once and for all.”
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science at ECEAE member Cruelty Free International, says: “We are delighted that Ipsen has successfully gained the approval of a non-animal alternative in Europe. This will put an end to the cruel killing of hundreds of thousands of mice for the testing of their botox products. We find it completely unacceptable that sentient animals are subjected to an agonizing death for a product that is widely used for cosmetic purposes, despite a non-animal alternative being available. We urge other botox companies to follow suit so that cruel botox animal tests become a thing of the past.”
Occasionally used for medical purposes, botox is best known for its cosmetic use to temporarily reduce facial lines and wrinkles. Although since March 2013 there has been an EU ban on the manufacture and import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals, botox is not included because it is a product that is injected and not applied to the skin (the definition of a ‘cosmetic’). This loophole in EU law permits hundreds of thousands of mice to be used in cruel tests for the substance worldwide every year.
The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), of which the IAVS is a member, was formed in 1990 by organisations across Europe to successfully campaign to ban cosmetics testing on animals. Today we lead campaigning on all animal testing issues in Europe, and are the only organisation solely dedicated to being a voice for animals in EU laboratories.