Eli Lilly CEO Lies—on Video—About Animal Tests, Competitors

For Immediate Release:
May 2, 2022

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


At an event in Indiana earlier this month, an animal advocate filmed herself confronting Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks over his company’s refusal to ban the discredited forced swim test. PETA is releasing the damning video, available here, to expose Ricks’ false and misleading statements. In the test, mice and other small animals are often dosed with a test substance and forced to swim in beakers of water to keep from drowning, purportedly to develop drugs to treat human depression.

The truth dispelling Ricks’ lies includes the following:

  • Researchers are currently employing human cell–based systems, drug-repurposing programs, and other cutting-edge, non-animal methods to develop antidepressant drugs, but Ricks claimed that there was no replacement for the archaic forced swim test.
  • Pharmaceutical giants such as AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Johnson & Johnson, and Sage Therapeutics have all banned the test and are currently developing antidepressant drugs—but Ricks claimed that only companies that ended their antidepressant research have banned the test.
  • More than 20,000 people who use Eli Lilly’s products have urged the company to ban the forced swim test, but Ricks claims that he “answers to the patients we serve.”

“David Ricks apparently feels compelled to lie and to keep antidepressant drug development in the Stone Age—even though he’s failing those who desperately need treatments,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “PETA is calling on him to acknowledge that there are better tools than watching panicked animals struggle to stay above water and to ban this absurd test.”

The forced swim, or despair, test has been heavily criticized by scientists who argue that when the mice start to float, it’s not a sign of depression or despair but rather a positive indicator of learning, saving energy, and adapting to a new environment. Eli Lilly has tormented 3,400 mice and rats in this test since 1993, and not one of the drugs it has attempted to develop by employing it are available for public use. Experts have claimed that flawed animal tests are a main reason why antidepressant drugs fail more than 90% of the time before reaching the market.

PETA’s campaign against Eli Lilly has included ads, tens of thousands of e-mails from consumers, attendance at annual meetings, and numerous protests, including outside Ricks’ home.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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