Research using animals

Research involving animals is a vital part of biomedical research and medicine development, helping us to understand and improve the prevention and treatment of diseases in animals and humans.

It is a regulatory requirement to test potential new medicines in animals before they can be tested in humans, with most tested in two species prior to human testing.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Research involving animals has played an important part in almost every medical breakthrough of the last century, helping scientists to understand disease processes and ensuring medicines are safe for patients.

In the UK, the use of animals in experiments and testing is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA), with implementation regulated by the Home Office in England, Scotland and Wales and by the Department for Health, Social Security and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. In 2013, ASPA was amended to align UK law with the requirements of the updated EU regulations (EU Directive 2010/63/EU).

Under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, the principles of the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) provide a framework for conducting humane animal research and promote the use of alternative methods to reduce the number of animals used.

The pharmaceutical industry is strongly committed to the principles of the 3Rs, and all ABPI members maintain very high standards of animal welfare, complying with the strict UK and EU regulations, often going above and beyond these regulations.

The pharmaceutical industry continues to drive collaborative initiatives based on the 3Rs at a UK, European and international level.

The ABPI fulfils this commitment further by being a signatory of the Concordat of Openness on Animal Research, alongside 126 companies, organisations, charities and associations. This is a UK commitment to help the public understand more about why animals are used in research.

[1] Home Office, Statistics of scientific procedures on living animals, Great Britain, 2022

Last modified: 30 April 2024

Last reviewed: 30 April 2024