Minipigs could contribute to improved safety

A group of more than 40 industry, government and academic experts from all over Europe has reported that minipigs have many advantages for drug and chemical safety testing and could improve drug safety for humans.

The conclusions of the group’s RETHINK report, which was funded by the EU, deal with the impact and animal welfare implications of miniature pig breeds (minipigs) in safety testing of new medicines and other products. The RETHINK report includes 20 concrete proposals for actions or research to optimize the way in which minipigs are deployed in safety testing.

‘The RETHINK report looks at minipigs from all angles,’ said Dr Roy Forster, coordinator of the RETHINK project and Chief Scientific Officer at CIT, a non-clinical contract research organization in France.

‘The ethical issues of using minipigs were carefully addressed and we did not identify major differences compared to other non-rodent species. We reviewed handling and housing to be sure that their welfare is guaranteed during testing. We studied legal and technical guidance documents and found that minipig testing is fully accepted by regulatory authorities.

‘On the scientific side, we assembled information on the minipig as a safety testing model and found close physiological and anatomical similarity to man. We also looked at the suitability of the minipig with powerful new technologies such as gene manipulation and genomics.’

‘All that we saw convinced us that the minipig has a very useful role to play in safety testing and it probably provides better prediction of drug safety for patients than traditional models such as rats and dogs. And in terms of animal welfare, we were able to show significant 3R (reduction, replacement, refinement) benefits in comparison with the use of other large animal species.’

The RETHINK steering committee is sending copies of its report to government agencies and committees around Europe. The report is also being published as a special issue of the Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods, and copies of the report are freely available to interested parties by requesting them at

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