Medical Device Daily Correspondent
and Staff Reports

Animal rights extremists face jail terms of up to five years if they cause “economic damage“ to any company doing business with animal research companies or facilities, the UK government announced recently.

Two new criminal offenses will be introduced to protect suppliers and contractors ranging from taxi firms and couriers to laboratory equipment companies and banks that are increasingly being subjected to harassment and intimidation by animal rights extremists.

The measures are part of the Serious Organized Crime and Police Bill, which is passing through Parliament, and are expected to be in force before the end of the year.

The offenses, which apply to any supplier, customer or associate of an animal research organization, even if they are several steps removed in the supply chain, are in addition to other measures in the bill. Those include a new offense of protesting outside someone's home in a way that causes harassment, alarm or distress, and gives the police the power to move protesters from outside someone's home and ban them from returning.

Stop Huntingdon Life Sciences (SHAC), one of the leading animal rights activist groups in the UK, claims its actions forced more than 100 companies to stop supplying goods and services to the animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in 2004. SHAC's tactics have included targeting customers of HLS suppliers.

Figures compiled by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry showed 112 suppliers cut ties with animal research companies and facilities in 2004. At the same time there were major increases in the number of abusive or threatening phone calls, and a jump in damage to company, personal and public property.

The UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) has mounted a long campaign for stronger protection. Aisling Burnand, its chief executive, told Medical Device Daily's sister publication, BioWorld International, it was not easy to frame the legislation.

“We acknowledge the right of people to protest peacefully, but there is a need to curtail extremists,“ she said. “The economic damage clause will give more clarity on what is legitimate [action] and what is not. The tactics being used against suppliers are not acceptable.“

Burnand hopes the legislation will persuade companies that have been intimidated into cutting ties with HLS and other animal research facilities to review their positions.

“It will be a criminal offense, whereas before it was civil, so people are more likely to complain than walk away from a contract,“ she said.

Announcing the measures, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said animal rights extremists pose a threat to investment in the UK, saying that “extremists are also ruining lives and livelihoods of people and communities.“

The other issue for the BIA is enforcement. “We now want reassurance in terms of police resources to make this work in practice,“ Burnand said.

Seventh European site for CTLM system

Imaging Diagnostic Systems (IDSI; Fort Lauderdale, Florida) said that Charles University Hospital (Prague, Czech Republic) has signed a clinical collaborative agreement to gather data to expand diagnostic applications of the company's CT Laser Mammography (CTLM) system.

Jan Danes, MD, head of the department of radiology at the university's Polak Family Breast Diagnostic Center, said, “We perform thousands of diagnostic breast exams annually with the latest imaging devices. Adding this remarkable CT Laser Breast Imaging technique, which images the process of angiogenesis, will add new dimension to our clinical service.“

Deborah O'Brien, senior vice president at IDSI, said the agreement marks the seventh of eight targeted European sites to be signed on as part of the company's targeted push into Europe. “Each site selected will perform a variety of studies to introduce laser optical breast imaging technology into their respective areas and promote product awareness,“ she said.

The CTLM system is the first breast imaging system to utilize laser technology and patented algorithms to create 3-D cross-sectional images of the breast. It provides a non-invasive, painless examination that does not expose the patient to radiation or require breast compression.

Imaging Diagnostic Systems has received the CE mark for the system, along with approval in Canada and China. The company is seeking premarket approval from the FDA for use of the system as an adjunct to mammography.

DIA EuroMeeting set for March

More than 365 representatives from multiple pharmaceutical companies, research firms and regulatory authorities, will offer their insight on recent changes in the European pharmaceutical industry at the Drug Information Association's (DIA) 17th annual EuroMeeting.

The meeting, “Medicines in Changing Times,“ will be held from March 7-9 at the Lisboa Congress Center in Lisbon, Portugal.

Wayne Nitchuk, director of DIA Europe (Basel, Switzerland), called the meeting “the premier industry event in Europe.“ He said that with speakers coming from 25 countries, including 21 of the 25 European Union (EU) countries, “attendees will have the opportunity to further their knowledge and network at an event that is unparalleled in the field.“

Seventeen session tracks will cover issues covering the recently enlarged EU, Clinical Trials Directive, implementation of future legislation in the EU and generic medicines. Other tracks will include pharmaceutical, non-clinical and clinical research, pharmacovigilance and safety, data management and using the Internet in clinical research.

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