Animal ethics

Use of animals in the pharmaceutical industry

At present, some experiments on living animals are essential for all pharmaceutical companies in the processes of discovery, development and production of new pharmaceutical and medical products. It is also a requirement from the authorities that drug candidates are tested in living animals before they can be tested in humans. Companies are required to provide appropriate data regarding efficacy, safety and toxicology from testing in both animals and humans before the authorities can approve a new product.

For a long time to come we will need animal experiments in research and development. It is an important goal to ensure that the animals do not suffer unneccesarily, and that is why we have guidelines for how the animals are to be treated - also when they are not being tested which is 99% of the lifetime of the animals
Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Executive Vice President and Chief Schience Officer

Responsible use of animals

We only use animals where no alternative exists. We recognise that not all animal experiments can be replaced in the foreseeable future and consider it our responsibility to actively support the principles of the 3Rs (Reduce, Refine and Replace animal experiments, Professor William Russell and Rex Burch, 1959) internally and externally. We have integrated these principles in all our processes and procedures and established a 3R Award to acknowledge and inspire employees who bring the 3R principles into action. We review animal models on a continuous basis for replacement with in vitro methods and uses human cells and tissues instead of living animals wherever possible. We support and participate in initiatives on the development of valid alternatives to animal experiments eg EPAACALAR3R CentreEFPIA.


Novo Nordisk has challenged authorities on the appropriateness of using animals in drug release testing and as of November 2011 Novo Nordisk will no longer test the quality of batches of marketed products in living animals. These tests were required by health authorities, but after a decade of research and close collaboration with authorities around the world, incrementally Novo Nordisk was able to get authorities’ approval of the removal of redundant tests and the replacement of other tests with alternative testing methods.  See the video “A milestone in animal ethics” (duration 9 minutes) or read more.

Animal welfare is a high priority

When animals are used their welfare is given high priority and attention in several ways.
Novo Nordisk has initiated and developed new improved housing and care standards for all animal species used in-house, based on the natural behaviour and needs of these animals. We perform ethical reviews on all studies before they are initiated, and staff is trained in animal welfare. We monitor conditions at external contractors as well as our suppliers, and they must follow Novo Nordisk global housing standards for animals. In addition, we support and encourage our employees and external contractors to share better practices.

Reducing the number of animals

We do everything we can to minimise the number of animal experiments. We cannot eliminate them completely, because the complicated interplay between a pharmaceutical product and a living organism will never be able to be replicated completely in a test tube. It is expected that our use of experimental animals needed to develop a drug within a given disease area will continue to decline over the next decades as new emerging technologies will make it possible to obtain even more important information without the use of
living animals.

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