On Jan. 26, 2018, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency, after an internal investigation, had permanently ended a nicotine addiction study in which four squirrel monkeys had died. "Based on this team's findings, it is clear the study was not consistent with the agency's high animal welfare standards," the commissioner said in a statement on the FDA website.
In a September 2017 letter, famous primate researcher and conservationist Jane Goodall had denounced the research as cruel and unnecessary, saying that the harmful effects of smoking on humans already are known and could be studied directly.
In addition to ending the study, Gottlieb said that the findings indicated that the FDA's protections for animal research subjects "may need to be strengthened in some important areas." For that reason, he announced the launching of an independent, third-party investigation of all of the FDA's animal research, and the creation of a new Animal Welfare Council to oversee those studies going forward.
Additionally, Gottlieb said that the FDA would strengthen its commitment to "replacing, reducing and/or refining" animal studies with new methods, and said that animals should be used in studies only when there is no other way to do research that's important for public health. But even so, he said, "It is important to recognize that there are still many areas where animal research is important and necessary." In particular, he cited the use of primates as essential for the development of some critical vaccines for human children.