NIH spent $2.3M injecting dogs with cocaine in experiment related to overdose research: report

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NIH spent $2.3M injecting dogs with cocaine in experiment related to overdose research: report

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spent about $2.3 million between 2020 and 2021 on an experiment that involved injecting beagle dogs with cocaine, according to a new report.

The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP), a watchdog group aiming to stop certain taxpayer-funded experiments on animals, on Monday published documents they obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showing the research agency disbursed $2.3 million to the project.

“The objective of this study is to evaluate the potential adverse cardiovascular effects that may result when [redacted] (test article) and cocaine (interaction article) are administered together to male Beagle dogs,” the study obtained by White Coat Waste states. It also explains the experiment was designed to show how the effects of cocaine in the body can be altered with medication.

NIH has previously come under fire for its use of beagles in taxpayer-funded experiments.

After the study, beagles were either sent back to the Charles River animal colony, where NIH purchased the dogs "for future use," or they were "euthanized," documents state. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

After the study, beagles were either sent back to the Charles River animal colony, where NIH purchased the dogs “for future use,” or they were “euthanized,” documents state. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

“#BeagleGate just got bigger. Taxpayers should not be forced to foot the multi-million-dollar bill for wasteful and cruel ‘Coke Hound’ experiments in which beagle puppies are injected with cocaine just to fulfill burdensome and outdated FDA red tape,” Devin Murphy, public policy and communications manager at WCWP, told Fox News Digital. “The NIH is addicted to spending and it’s time we got this waste and abuse off of the taxpayer’s back.”

The NIH and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted in a Wednesday statement to Fox News Digital that there are currently no medication treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for stimulant use disorders, such as cocaine overdoses.

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“In 2020, a record-breaking 91,799 people died from a drug overdose in the United States. While much of the focus has been on opioid involved overdoses, stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are an increasing threat, with 19,447 of the overdose deaths in 2020 involving cocaine and 23,837 of the overdose deaths in 2020 involving psychostimulants (primarily methamphetamine),” NIH and NIDA said.

To address the research gap, NIDA invested in a research portfolio to conduct toxicology studies “in a preclinical model to test the safety of a novel drug for the treatment of cocaine use disorder before moving it into a human study.”

White Coast Waste Project's NIH documents screenshot. (WCWP)

White Coast Waste Project’s NIH documents screenshot. (WCWP)

“This is done for the sole purpose of ensuring that a new medication will be safe in people who are seeking treatment for cocaine use disorder, and who may resume cocaine use while in treatment,” the NIH and NIDA said. “It is important that a proposed new treatment does not increase the effect of the well-documented and potentially lethal cardiovascular effects of cocaine.”

After the study, beagles were either sent back to the Charles River animal colony, where NIH purchased the dogs “for future use,” or they were “euthanized,” documents state.

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NIH documents also state that the number of dogs used in the study was the “minimum required to properly characterize the effects of the test article.”

“At this time, studies in laboratory animals provide the best available basis for extrapolation to humans and are required to support regulatory submissions. Acceptable models that do not use live animals currently do not exist,” the documents state.

A final report from the study is due May 2022.

White Coast Waste Project's NIH documents screenshot. (WCWP)

White Coast Waste Project’s NIH documents screenshot. (WCWP)

Documents also include a section called “Animal Welfare,” which says the drug studies involving beagles “comply with all applicable sections of the Animal Welfare Act…the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare…and the Guide for Care and Use of Laboratory Animals from the National Research Council.”

“NIH is committed to ensuring the welfare of animals used in research and, where possible, reducing their use,” NIH and NIDA said. “The proposed use of animals in research is evaluated during peer review for both contract and grant proposals. Applications submitted to NIH, including to NIDA, proposing to use animals, go through a rigorous review process to assess their scientific and technical merit, which includes an assessment of the applicants’ plans for the protection of research animals.”

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The agency also “requires such studies be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before they are funded.”

Despite these reassurances, however, PETA senior vice president of cruelty investigations Daphna Nachminovitch previously told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that the NIH has been cited by the Department of Agriculture for “hideous” conditions inside animal colonies or warehouses. 

The NIH recently ended its relationship with a breeding facility in Virginia called Envigo after the USDA cited the facility for multiple violations, according to WRIC.

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“They have been cited … for direct and critical violations,” Nachminovitch said in the December 2021 interview. “For failure to provide basic necessities of life to these nursing mother dogs and their puppies, keeping animals in temperatures as high as 92 degrees without air conditioning, plunging needles into the heads of puppies to drain hematomas … and so much more.”

The use of dogs in lab experiments has decreased since the 1970s, according to recent USDA statistics.

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