Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?

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Proponents of animal research claim that the benefits to humans are self evident.1 However, writing in The BMJ 10 years ago we argued that such uncorroborated claims were inadequate in an era of evidence based medicine.2 At that time over two thirds of UK government and charitable investment was going into basic research,3 perhaps creating an expectation that such research was highly productive of clinical benefits. However, when we searched for systematic evidence to support claims about the clinical benefits of animal research we identified only 25 systematic reviews of animal experiments, and these raised serious doubts about the design, quality, and relevance of the included studies. As our colleagues had done earlier,4 we argued the case that systematic reviews should be extensively adopted within animal research to synthesise and appraise findings, just as they are in clinical research.