Can a drug be classified as “not vital”?

The Daily Mail has put out a piece that reads like a press release. I suppose that’s like a lot of their web content.
However, this one attracted my attention as it was about animal testing.
It is based upon an investigation by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, titled “The Ugly Truth”, about animal experiments on rabbits. These rabbits were being used for shock horror testing side effects of antibiotics, blood fillers and saline! Oh, the humanity!
BUAV complain that “the lab inflicted ‘appalling suffering’ on thousands of animals in tests that [were] ‘crude, archaic and extremely cruel’.” adding that the bunnies were “used over and over again for months at a time.”
However, this is not what this shall focus on. No, it was one of the nutty comments on the press release… I mean “article” that wound me up to no end.

Testing for vital drugs is, I suppose, ok. Testing for non-vital drugs or beauty products should be outlawed and anyone found doing such tests should eb subjected to it themselves.
– Ex-pat of Adelaide, Adelaide Australia, 17/4/2011 15:11

What?!
How can one judge whether a drug is vital or not? A drug may not appear vital to some, but absolutely, undeniably necessary for someone else.

Let’s take an example.

For me, my medicines are vital. They allow me to function on a day to day basis without fear of excruciating abdominal pain, very unpleasant bowel movements and extreme fatigue.
However, I could still “live” without them. My life is not in immediate danger without them.
Therefore, I’m sure that in some people’s eyes they would class as non-vital.
On the flip side from my situation, there are people for who these drugs would be classed as absolutely vital in anyone’s eyes – people with severe Crohn’s disease. People who could quite plausibly die without treatment.
Therefore, the animal testing would have to be done on these vital drugs, even in the eyes of people like Ex-pat of Adelaide

The main issue comes from the definition of vital. Does it include people who would not function on a daily basis without the drug or is it strictly limited to life and death situations? Could it include someone with a headache that stops them doing whatever they want for an hour or two?

Another reason that this is an irresponsibly stupid thing to say is that we do not know every single disease each drug will treat when they are developed and therefore, cannot know how vital they may be. Take the drug ibuprofen. Originally developed as a painkiller, it was realised that it could be used to treat patent ductus arteriosus – a condition where a newborn baby’s ductus arteriosus fails to close after birth. This condition can lead to heart failure. Something not as apparently vital in the first instance has become something which can save lives. Ibuprofen is not the only drug this has happened with and I doubt it will be the last.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you could make the case for any drugs being vital.
Whether it be aspirin, methotrexate, infliximab or zidovudine – these drugs have been vital to someone, whether it be to treat a headache or stop HIV taking a greater hold in their body.

For all these reasons, and undoubtedly more, it is silly and unethical to call a drug not vital and therefore refuse to do testing on it.

9 Responses to “Can a drug be classified as “not vital”?”


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