Botulinum toxin manufacturers to use alternative to cruel animal test thanks to ECEAE campaign

20/06/2014

Following an international campaign by the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) to end the use of cruel animal tests for botulinum toxin (‘botox’), manufacturers have confirmed they expect to seek official approval for use of an alternative test in European countries from next year.

Botulinum toxin is licensed in Europe as a medical treatment, but it is more commonly known for its ‘off-label’ cosmetic use as ‘botox’. This means that mice are still being used in testing even though using animals to test cosmetic products is banned.  The test carried out on mice is the archaic LD50 (so -called because it seeks to find the 'Lethal Dose' at which 50% of the mice would be expected to die when injected with the toxin), which is one of the cruellest and most controversial animal tests. The test is routinely performed on batches of the product before they are sold to consumers using hundreds of mice each time.

The ECEAE has learned that Ipsen and Merz, two of the three main botox manufacturers, are making progress with an alternative to LD50 for their testing of botox, and they expect to start to obtain official acceptance in each country in Europe next year. LD50 testing for botox testing will, Merz advises, end when this validation has been obtained. Allergan have already received approval to use their alternative method in the EU.

A BUAV investigation at Wickham Laboratories in the UK found that around 74,000 mice a year were being subjected to these cruel poisoning tests for Ipsen’s botox product, Dysport. The mice were injected into the abdomen with the toxin and then periodically observed to see how many died. The mice became increasingly paralysed, eventually gasping for breath and suffocating to death. The degree of suffering our investigator witnessed was appalling, and no pain relief was provided for the mice.

We are delighted that an end seems to be in sight for this appalling test, but with the alternative so close to acceptance we are urging Merz and Ipsen to suspend production until the alternative approach is ready.

The success of our campaign shows how important it is in today's world to mobilise opinion internationally. The ECEAE remains the only large multinational alliance dedicated to ending animal testing, and our campaign on botox has been active across most member states of the European Union.