Although, during the early years of medicine, researchers didn’t have much choice but to use animals for testing drugs—the tests certainly ensured some quality standards—technology in the form of computer simulations and organs-on-a-chip has not deterred us from retaining these tests. But things may be changing now. India, earlier this year, announced a ban on animal testing for soaps and detergents and new drug registrations and, now, may well be on its way to ban the Draize test.
The Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has recommended doing away with the test which involves exposing a rabbit’s skin and eyes to the chemical being tested and then leaving the animals in restraints—without medical care—to study the side-effects.
A report by safermedicines.org showed that the Draize test is not accurate, while data from another study suggests that there were huge variations in the effect of chemicals on humans and rabbits. Moreover, with a rabbit’s eye being very different from that of a human—rabbits have a nictitating membrane while their cornea covers 25% of eye surface, almost three times that of humans—companies would do well to follow other standards like in vitro tests. While it is still a recommendation, the government would do well to heed the DTAB’s suggestion as there is enough evidence to prove that the Draize test may not even be reliable.