New drugs are vital for patients, although you might not realise this until a patient tells you that they are.
Robert Scholten from the Dutch Brain Consult patient platform developed dystonia 18 years ago. 'Does anyone know what dystonia is?' he asks the audience attending his presentation (Dutch). 'No? You might not think that I do either, because I'm shaking my head too, but that's the nature of the disease, you see. Dystonia is a brain disease, a movement disorder; something is wrong with the signals that my brain sends to my muscles.'
Animal testing to carry on even after 2025
At a donor meeting at the Stichting Informatie Dierproeven (Animal Testing Information Foundation, SID) last year, Scholten explained the severity of the problems that brain disorders cause – 'four million people in the Netherlands have a brain disorder' – and why research and new drugs are vital for patients. 'Patients want to see an end to animal testing as soon as possible, but … until this is possible, we would like animal testing to continue, subject to certain conditions, even after 2025.'
With the above in mind, Scholten believes that patients would like funding to be made available for the development of alternatives in the short term. It is also important to ensure that laboratory animals are provided with the very best animal housing and care possible. 'My impression', says Scholten, 'is that great efforts are being made in this respect in the Netherlands and also that people are far more aware.' He adds that it should only be possible to use laboratory animals if 'proper consideration is given to the usefulness and necessity of animal testing' in advance.
Patients have just one interest in mind
In his presentation, Scholten stresses that changes to animal testing policy, as an objective in its own right, is 'far too one-sided a discussion and should be part of a far more integrated approach. The interests involved need to be weighed up in a far more balanced manner as well.' He concludes: 'Ultimately, every patient has just one interest in mind: to get better or improve the quality of his/her life. That's something you can't do on your own.'