After years of gradual implementation, the EU’s REACH regulation was officially launched on 31 May 2018.
REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances, in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.
Pharmaceutical and chemical companies across Europe worked hard to meet the final registration deadline.
Now, companies operating across these sectors are facing another looming deadline: the moment the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.
REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals regulation, has a number of requirements that apply to the pharmaceutical industry.
Under REACH, testing on vertebrate animals (e.g. rats, other mammals or fish) can only be used as a last resort to fulfil information requirements for registration.
The REACH regulations apply to all companies manufacturing or importing between one to 100 tonnes of chemical compounds per year.
The regulations require companies to share data from valid animal tests, with test-owners compensated according to pre-agreed rules.
If this kind of regulatory environment is lost, FRAME believes there is a danger that the numbers of animals used in pharmaceutical and chemical testing will increase.
This is because companies will no longer be required to operate within the REACH framework, nor will they have access to the main REACH database, which is the most comprehensive database of its kind.
Not having access to this data would make it harder for the UK to assess the safety of chemicals, and pharmaceutical compounds, potentially putting at risk people’s health and the environment.
As at August 2018 it remains unclear whether the UK will remain within REACH, or whether it will be outside the regulations with the possibility it sets up its own REACH-like rules.
Dr Andy Bennett, director of the FRAME Alternatives Laboratory in Nottingham, said:
“It is obvious that keeping the UK in REACH is the best option not only for human health and the environment, but also for the long-term goal of eradicating the need to use animals in experiments.
“We strongly advocate that the UK stays within the REACH regulations as this will ensure that companies using animal research do not do so unless this method is a last resort to fulfil information requirements for REACH registration.”