We’ve been fortunate to use our visibility and personal experience to raise awareness about how this bill could help end futile chimpanzee experiments. Both of us have known people who have suffered or died from AIDS or cancer. And we’ve yet to learn about any treatments from chimpanzee experiments that would have helped them.
We also share our awe of the immense intelligence and vital social lives of these amazing creatures. Just like humans, they use tools, grieve for their dead and are capable of complex communication. But when chimpanzees are used in invasive experiments, they are kept in small metal cages, deprived of normal social interaction and often subjected to harmful procedures.
In addition to social and behavioral commonalities, humans and chimpanzees are also 95 to 98 percent genetically similar. But the expression of these genes in disease is dramatically different. Pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government are slowly accepting this fact.
GlaxoSmithKline publicly stated in 2008 that it would no longer use chimpanzees in their research. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require the use of chimpanzees for either drug or vaccine testing.
The FDA recently approved two new therapeutics for hepatitis C — the first in 25 years — and there are two additional drugs in the pipeline. None of these four medications used chimpanzees for either development or testing. Significant advances have also been made in the development of a malaria vaccine without the use of chimpanzees. Since there is little we will gain by continuing to use them in experiments, there is no need to continue to keep them in laboratories.
It is clear why we are joining so many researchers, members of Congress and citizens across the country who are speaking out on behalf of these animals.
We share the hope that Congress will finally pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act this year. Its passage will not only protect chimpanzees who have given so much of their lives for wasteful experiments, it will accelerate the development of non-animal research to advance human health.
Bauer is an actress who stars in the HBO series “True Blood.” Wasserman, M.D., J.D., is a Maryland physician and has served as state health secretary for both Maryland and Oregon