Sage Therapeutics Bans Forced Swim Test on Animals

PETA Ask Prompts Pharmaceutical Company to Say No to Near-Drowning Experiments on Mice and Rats

For Immediate Release:
October 8, 2019

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Cambridge, Mass. – After discussions with PETA, Sage Therapeutics has become the eighth pharmaceutical company to ban the widely discredited forced swim test (see this video), in which mice and other 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. Sage develops medications of mental health and neurological disorders.

“PETA applauds Sage, which specializes in mental health medications, for recognizing that nearly drowning a mouse or a rat tells us nothing about human depression,” says PETA neuroscientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “PETA is calling on the rest of the pharmaceutical industry to fall in line with Sage Therapeutics and commit to evidence-based research that will actually help human mental health.”

Between 2016 and 2018, Sage Therapeutics employees coauthored at least two manuscripts describing the use of the forced swim test in experiments involving 60 mice and 51 rats. The test has been heavily criticized by scientists who argue that floating is not a sign of depression or despair, as some claim, but rather a positive indicator of learning, saving energy, and adapting to a new environment. The test is less accurate than a coin toss in determining the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk A/S, Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, Roche, and Boehringer Ingelheim all banned the forced swim test after hearing from PETA, which is now calling on Pfizer, 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 toward other animals. For more information, please visit or click here.

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Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind