Pfizer Bans Forced Swim Test After PETA Campaign

For Immediate Release:

1 November 2019


Jennifer White +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 222; [email protected]


Pharma Giant Joins Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Others in Saying No to Future Near-Drowning Tests

London – Pfizer has announced that it won’t conduct, commission, or fund the widely discredited forced swim test  following a year-long campaign by PETA and its international affiliates. Actions included spirited protests with “mice” in swim tanks and a dancing “CrapStick” – a spoof on the company’s ChapStick product – a shareholder resolution, an appearance at Pfizer’s annual meeting, and more than half a million e-mails from supporters of PETA and our affiliates.

In the forced swim test, small animals are placed in inescapable beakers filled with water and made to swim to keep from drowning, purportedly to shed light on human depression – but the test doesn’t accurately predict whether a drug will work to treat depression in humans, and it can yield positive results for compounds that aren’t prescribed as human antidepressants, such as caffeine, and negative results for compounds that are. In the 18 years that publications show the company used the test, it didn’t lead to any marketable drugs to treat human depression.

In discussions last year, PETA US urged Pfizer executives to ban the test, but the company refused to do so until this week, when it issued a statement to the media. In it, Pfizer claimed that company officials told PETA US in February about the test ban, even though that contradicts an April STAT news story that quotes the company as stating that a ban on the forced swim test is “not in the best interest of the company, its patients or shareholders”.

“PETA is delighted that Pfizer recognised this week that terrifying animals into thinking they might drown is both cruel and bad science,” says PETA Head of Science Dr Gilly Stoddart. “PETA looks forward to seeing the company embrace a new era of animal-free, evidence-based research that will actually lead to treatments for humans who suffer from depression.”

Pfizer joins Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Roche, AstraZeneca, Sage Therapeutics, Novo Nordisk A/S, and Boehringer Ingelheim in banning the test after talks with PETA US. PETA and our international affiliates are now calling on Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb to follow suit.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence towards other animals. For more information, please visit