Advances in medicine are responsible for saving and improving the lives of millions of people – and animal research has been key to many of the great medical advances that we take for granted today.
Animal research is only a very small part of all medical research carried out at Novartis, but it plays an important role in our work to find innovative, safe and life-changing medicines for patients. Many scientific breakthroughs at Novartis, in devastating diseases, have benefited from animal research.
Major progress is being made scientifically to reduce, and perhaps someday eliminate, the need for most animal research. Despite the advances in finding alternatives, it will still be necessary to use animals in research for the foreseeable future.
Why? Animal studies are still often needed to understand complex disease mechanisms that cannot be fully recreated in a "test tube" (in vitro) or on a computer. Governments and regulatory authorities therefore require that medicines be tested in animals before they are tested in humans. At the same time, the Declaration of Helsinki says that it is unethical to give experimental treatments to humans that have not been tested first in laboratory animals.
Animal Welfare at Novartis
The welfare of animals in our care is of primary concern to us. This is not only an ethical obligation; good animal welfare is also a prerequisite for good science, because reducing the stress levels in laboratory animals improves the quality of our scientific results.
We have an Animal Welfare Policy and a set of Animal Welfare Standards that define key principles, responsibilities and explicit requirements governing animal research. These principles and requirements frequently exceed the requirements of local regulations, and must be followed in all animal studies sponsored by Novartis Group companies worldwide, including those conducted by third parties sponsored by Novartis.
To ensure the implementation of, and adherence with, Novartis standards, we have a dedicated Global Animal Welfare Organization, made up of animal welfare experts. This organization conducts regular audits of all Novartis animal facilities and Novartis-contracted third parties using animals.
Novartis fully supports the use of alternatives to animal research wherever feasible. Scientists at Novartis are urged to search for alternative ways to carry out studies before performing animal research. To help achieve this, Novartis adheres to the principles of the 3Rs. This means, where possible, we are committed to continuously:
reducing the number of animals used in studies;
refining study methods;
replacing animal studies with new methods.
To further encourage implementation of the 3Rs, Novartis gives in-house awards annually to the best proposals for practical implementation of the principles of the 3Rs. This encourages Novartis associates to look for ways to practice the 3Rs globally and for new ideas to reduce the number of animals used in our studies.