The  National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued new guidelines for its post-graduate pharmacology curriculum, that will spare the lives of countless animals, according to a note from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India.

The guidelines recommend the use of non-animal teaching and training methods and make routine laboratory experiments on animals non-mandatory, said the animal welfare organisation that has been campaigning on the issue.

Animals are no longer used for undergraduate medical education in India, following a campaign by PETA India and others, it said. And now, with the NMC’s new guidelines, much of post-graduate teaching and training will also no longer involve applying chemicals to animals’ skin or eyes, or forcing them to inhale toxic fumes, deliberately infecting them with diseases, or mutilating them, after which they are killed by suffocation or neck dislocation, it added.

In letters to the NMC, PETA India had pointed out that several Indian medical school studies confirmed that non-animal methods are effective in meeting learning objectives, facilitate repeatability of the experiment, improve students’ comprehension of experimental concepts, enhance their retention capacity, and bypass many other issues encountered when experimenting on animals. The group also shared opportunities to replace animal tests with sophisticated, non-animal methods in the guidelines for teaching and training postgraduate pharmacology students, it said. BusinessLine has reached out to NMC on the new guidelines, a response is awaited.

 PETA India’s Science policy advisor Dr Ankita Pandey said, “Medical students would benefit if they developed practical skills using human-relevant techniques and gained experience in clinical rotations.”

According to the new guidelines, pharmacology students are now required to learn how to administer drugs by various routes and study the effect of drugs using simulation (computational models), replacing the use of rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs. For some tests (such as studying drugs affecting memory and brain-coordinated movements), the guidelines recommend the use of human volunteers, the note said.

“For experiments in which drugs or chemicals are rubbed into animals’ eyes or animals are deliberately infected with diseases, the new guidelines recommend using human-relevant, in vitro and simulation models instead. For practical examinations, the guidelines suggest demonstrating the effects of drugs on and interpreting their results in humans instead of using other animals,” it added.