Animals Gain First Access to the Best New Medical Technology

New medical technologies have a way of becoming commercially available for veterinarian use long before we humans have a shot at it. This is largely because the veterinary world has no real equivalent to the destructive influence of the FDA (and its overseas cousins). New medical technologies for use with animals are developed and commercialized in an environment that - even though overregulated - more readily rewards effectiveness, time to market, a good grasp of risks involved and economic viability. The entrenched interests in human medicine, as in all centralized, largely unaccountable systems, have become dangerously ineffective. Hence dolphins gain access to reconstructive tissue engineering and stem cell therapies, as do horses:

For the past three years, Prof Roger Smith and his team at the Royal Veterinary College in North Mimms, Herts, have recovered stem cells from bone marrow and used them to treat more than 160 horses.

About a third of National Hunt racehorses injure the digital flexor tendons at the back of the lower leg. In the new treatment, a damaged tendon is rapidly "repopulated" by flexible new tendon tissue, rather than leathery scar tissue that naturally forms over a period of up to 18 months.

About 70 per cent of treated horses have returned to racing form - more than double the percentage that would be expected had they received conventional treatment.

Something must be done about the oppressive regulatory regime in Western countries that slows commercialization, blunts the incentives for success, reduces effectiveness and increases costs for human medicine. If good, working regenerative medicine is possible in dolphins and horses, then it is certain possible in people.


Yeah, well, if the treatment is unsuccessful, the animals are destroyed, so I imagine humans still have the better of it.

Posted by: Dennis Mangan at October 3rd, 2005 10:01 PM

The information here ranges anywhere from misleading to outright false. First off, the Center for Veterinary Medicine is a department of the FDA and does regulate the introduction of pharmaceutical therapies for animals as well as monmitors the marketing and use of veterinary medical devices.

Second, "stem cell therapies" are at the forefront of human medicine in these "oppresive" Western countries. There are currently around 200 disorders in humans that have been successfully treated using stem cells. To correct an often mistaken notion, all successful therapies to date have only been able to use non-embryonically derived stem cells, as with the horses that you mention above. If embryonic stem cells were so marvelous a cure, we certainly would have seen some stupendous discoveries in veterinary medicine where there is no compunction against the use of embyonically derived skin cells as opposed to non-embryonic sources.

If the medical regulatory regime is so opressive in Western countries, why is it that literally all the great advances in human pharmaceuticals and medical devices are developed in these same Western countries? It seems like the rest of the world waits for what Western medicine develops. Just look at how our medical advances are delayed in being approved and utilized in the East, the Middle East and in the third world countries. Ask any of the big Western companies how easy it is to get a drug-eluting stent into Japan. Or the latest radio-frequency emitting catheter into China. Or to be allowed to produce or sell the latest anti-hypertensive or cholesteriol lowering drug in Africa. You will find out pretty quick that the FDA is not all that oppresive compared to many of these other countries.

Posted by: Larry at October 6th, 2005 5:31 AM

Thanks for the correction on the FDA / CVM - poor research on my part. I think my wider point on the relative regulatory environments and their consequences still stands, however. The costs imposed on research by the CVM and its cousins are not in the same league as those imposed by the human-facing FDA.

Posted by: Reason at October 6th, 2005 9:54 AM
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