Thomas Hartung

Taking the 110th anniversary of marketing of aspirin as starting point, the almost scary toxicological profile of aspirin is contrasted with its actual use experience. The author concludes that we are lucky that, in 1899, there was no regulatory toxicology. Adding, for the purpose of this article, a fourth R to the Three Rs, i.e. Realism, three reality-checks are carried out. The first one comes to the conclusion that the tools of toxicology are hardly adequate for the challenges ahead. The second one concludes that, specifically, the implementation of the EU REACH system is not feasible with these tools, mainly with regard to throughput. The third one challenges the belief that classical alternative methods, i.e. replacing animal test-based tools one by one, is actually leading to a new toxicology — it appears to change only patches of the patchwork, but not to overcome any inherent limitations other than ethical ones. The perspective lies in the Toxicology for the 21st Century initiatives, which aim to create a new approach from the scratch, by an evidence-based toxicology and a global “Human Toxicology Programme”.
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