OHSU's primate research center in Beaverton has about 5,000 monkeys.
At any one time, about 120 experiments are being conducted, from developing a vaccine for hepatitis B to learning why some people handle HIV infections better than others.
A 'Freedom Of Information' request from the group, 'Stop Animal Exploitation Now,' has found that there have been nine serious problems at the center in the last 16 months.
Primate Center director Nancy Haigwood provided OPB with the documents before sending them to the animal rights group. “What we’ve begun to realize is that the general public probably doesn’t have a good understanding of why we do this research in monkeys,” she said.
The problems vary in severity, from two mice dying after being injected with the wrong solution, to monkeys on restricted diets having miscarriages.
One monkey bled to death after pulling out its shunt. In another experiment on alcoholic relapse, a monkey that hadn’t been allowed alcohol for 28 days got drunk. “And it basically overdosed, it drank too much and passed out in the cage. Was found, reported to the veterinary staff and resuscitated,” she said.
Haigwood said the overdose was reported to OHSU’s internal oversight committee, which worked with researchers to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The university said this experiment and others like it aim to unravel the complex biological factors involved in alcohol addiction.
Michael Budkie with ‘Stop Animal Exploitation Now,’ ridiculed the experiment on monkeys drinking alcohol. He said according to the ‘National Institutes of Health,’ OHSU gets more than $5 million a year to do alcohol studies on primates. “I’m very offended by the fact that our federal government is currently using that much money just at OHSU, let alone all of the other laboratories, to preform drug addiction experiments on animals, when we have treatment programs for human beings that work. That are not receiving adequate funding,” he said.
Related: OHSU Adverse Incident Report
The university said it only uses animals when other research methods are scientifically inadequate, or too dangerous for human participants.
Still, Budkie said he’s going to file a complaint. He wants to shut the primate center down completely. “If research facilities are so inept that they cannot follow basic procedures, and are accidentally killing animals during experiments, what does that say about the ability of these facilities to perform research that actually has any scientific relevance,” he said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that it is investigating the treatment of research monkeys at OHSU.
Center director Nancy Haigwood said sometimes people make mistakes, “They happen for the same reason that mistakes happen in a hospital.”
A recent study found medical mistakes to be the third-leading cause of human death in the nation.
Of course in a hospital, patients can sue for damages.
Research animals have the feds, who visit the primate center about twice a year, unannounced. They can issue warnings and levy fines, but those are tiny compared to the sums being spent on the research.
But the primate center’s attending veterinarian Gregory Timmel said they do everything to make the animals as comfortable as possible. “We know these animals and they have different personalities and they have different likes and dislikes, just like we do or just like our pets do. And we take that very seriously and occasionally when something doesn’t go right, we’re devastated,” he said.
The law states research animals are not allowed to feel pain, and must be given analgesics to avoid it.
Members of the public may ask to tour the primate center, but OHSU can deny access.