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Reps. Roybal-Allard and Calvert Introduce HEARTS Act to Prioritize Non-Animal Testing Methods in NIH Research
By Sentinel News Service
Published February 15, 2019

On Valentine’s Day, Congressmembers Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Ken Calvert (CA-42) announced their introduction of the HEARTS Act (Humane and Existing Alternatives in Research and Testing Sciences Act) of 2019.  The HEARTS Act (H.R. 1209) requires all National Institutes of Health (NIH) research proposals to purposely consider non-animal testing measures, and prioritize these alternatives when possible.

“As an animal lover, I am excited to introduce the HEARTS Act to prioritize the use of non-animal testing methods in the National Institutes of Health review system,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard.  “These non-animal testing methods are more humane, and often more accurate and less costly, than increasingly outdated and wasteful inhumane animal research methods.  Over the years, NIH’s groundbreaking research has greatly improved the lives of Americans and people around the world.  If the NIH review system starts to prioritize non-animal testing, it will only strengthen the value and accuracy of its findings in the years to come.”

“I’m a strong advocate for the National Institutes of Health’s life-saving research that has greatly improved the health and well-being of people around the world,” said Congressman Calvert.  “I believe we can further improve their important work by moving away from costly, duplicative animal research and prioritize humane and scientifically superior non-animal methods that are increasingly available.  The current NIH review system needs to be strengthened to ensure that accurate, cutting edge non-animal methods are used whenever possible.”

The HEARTS bill amends the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 to provide meaningful incentives for non-animal research methods.  Specifically, the bill:

  • Ensures that before any experiment involving the use of an animal is funded, the applicant has fully evaluated available non-animal methods.
  • Establishes guidelines for NIH grant applicants to conduct thorough searches for non-animal alternatives, and to carry out harm-benefit analyses of proposed animal research.
  • Encourages NIH to give meaningful incentives to grant proposals that rely on non-animal models where feasible and applicable.
  • Requires, in the event that the proposal still calls for the use of animals, a statement of assurance that a scientifically sound non-animal method of the obtaining the desired result is not available.

“Currently, the NIH spends at least $12 billion a year on animal testing, but even the most promising findings from animal research often fail in human trials and are rarely adopted into clinical practice,” said Monica Engebretson, North America campaign manager for Cruelty Free International.  “Prioritizing the use of modern non-animal methods could better use taxpayer dollars, increase return on investment and save animal lives.  Cruelty Free International is grateful for the leadership of Representatives Roybal-Allard and Calvert in sponsoring the HEARTS Act and we look forward to working with them as the bill advances though Congress.”

“Current law sets low expectations and provides little incentive for researchers to earnestly search for and use humane alternatives,” added Nancy Blaney, director of government affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.  “With public support for animal research at an all-time low and the increasing availability of non-animal methods that are more effective than animal models, the time is right for HEARTS Act to raise the bar.”

According to a 2017 Gallup poll, the share of Americans who think it is unethical to do medical testing on animals has reached a new high, with 44 percent of adults surveyed holding that medical testing on animals is “morally wrong,” up from 26 percent in 2001.  With public support for animal research at an all-time low, and with non-animal methods expanding tremendously in all areas of research, the time is right to ensure that NIH prioritizes the use of existing humane and scientifically valid alternatives in research and testing.  Enacting the HEARTS Act will further strengthen the NIH’s important, life-saving research by ensuring that NIH research proposals seriously consider cutting-edge non-animal research methods.

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