One of the proudest accomplishments of the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund to date has been partnering with the White Coat Waste Project (WCW) to save a squirrel monkey named Gregory, one of 26 who survived a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nicotine experiment conducted during 2014-17.
WCW, a bipartisan group of fiscal conservatives and animal rights activists founded in 2013, has logged numerous victories in its campaigns to end wasteful taxpayer-funded animal experiments. Its latest success in not only halting this FDA nicotine experiment, but also winning a lawsuit to obtain 2,064 pages of documents and 44 videos of the experiment, has been prominently covered by CNN, the New York Times, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and numerous other publications – and is certain to create ripple effects for the entire $15 billion taxpayer-funded animal testing system.
Gregory the monkey, born in May 2011, was shipped to the FDA National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Arkansas in October 2014. Over the next three years, he was among the group of monkeys who were caged, placed in restraint, and implanted with devices to deliver nicotine into their bloodstreams. Gregory suffered dehydration, hair loss, and unexplained wounds to his left forearm and right calf; and was observed chewing his own tail from stress. Four of the other test subject monkeys died.
The Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund began supporting WCW in February 2017, inspired in particular by its broad support from prominent Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle, and its emphasis on litigation and legislation that promotes greater government transparency and accountability regarding the use of test subject animals.
In September, Dr. Jane Goodall sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb in support of WCW’s campaign to end the FDA nicotine experiments, writing in part:
“I am told that the FDA has resisted releasing the videos of these cruel experiments and this I find extremely troubling.
To continue performing nicotine experiments on monkeys when the results of smoking are well-known in humans – whose smoking habits can still be studied directly – is shameful.”
Two weeks after receiving Goodall’s letter, Commissioner Gottlieb sent a reply acknowledging concerns about the study, and announced that he was suspending this series of FDA monkey nicotine experiments in order to “evaluate the safety and well-being of the monkeys” and “assess the science and integrity of the animal research process for this study.”
In January 2018, Gottlieb ended the experiments permanently, and Nevada Rep. Dina Titus wrote: “Now that the FDA has canceled these studies, I’m working to ensure the animals are relocated to a suitable sanctuary and we end other cruel, unwarranted government testing on animals.”
WCW then won its federal lawsuit calling for the FDA to turn over comprehensive print and video documentation on the monkey nicotine experiments – and this week, that documentation was made available to the public through Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest television station operator in the United States.
As Undark wrote last month, WCW’s “strident call for government transparency does shine a bright light on a problem that is inherent to the nation’s multibillion-dollar research funding complex: Ordinary citizens have very little voice in determining how their tax dollars are spent in the pursuit of basic science.” Even most supporters of taxpayer-funded animal testing agree with WCW that the public deserves to know more about how these experiments are conducted.