Profit motive big hurdle for Ebola drugs, experts say
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
For nearly four decades, mention of the Ebola virus has evoked death and terror, yet a simple factor—money—has stood in the way of erasing the curse, experts say.
Despite its evil reputation, Ebola breaks out only rarely in brief if murderous spurts in impoverished African countries.
That tiny—and poor—market means the disease has been a very low priority for Big Pharma, given the hundreds of millions of dollars it can take to devise a new drug or vaccine.
Today, after years of low-key progress with the Pentagon as main funder, the search for vaccines and drugs for Ebola has been thrown into higher gear and, for now, the profit factor has been put to one side.
“Until this west African epidemic, Ebola was not a public health problem and (was) a really rare disease,” says Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976.
“There was very little interest in all quarters, not just pharma,” Piot said in an email to AFP.
“Things have changed now, and two major companies are investing in a vaccine—GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and (Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) Janssen.”