Merck joins other drugmakers, contract research labs vowing not to do research on chimpanzees

TRENTON, N.J. – Drugmaker Merck & Co. is joining two dozen other pharmaceutical companies and contract laboratories in committing to not use chimpanzees for research.

The growing trend could mean the roughly 1,000 chimps in the U.S. used for research or warehoused in laboratory cages could be “retired” to sanctuaries by around the end of this decade.

That’s according to Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society of the United States, which about seven years ago began urging companies to phase out all research on chimpanzees.

Improved technology, animal alternatives and pressure by the federal government and animal rights groups have fueled the trend.

Caroline Lappetito, a Merck spokeswoman, says the New Jersey-based company decided late last year to stop research on chimpanzees because “the science has advanced and we don’t really need it.”