Two drugs used to treat leukemia have been found to prevent the Ebola virus from replicating itself in someone’s body. The rare virus currently has no vaccine, treatment, or cure, and causes those who are infected to bleed to death 90% of the time. Ebola virus is most commonly associated with strains present in Africa, as well in the Western Pacific but with less severity. It can be contracted through direct contact of blood, secretions, organs, or bodily fluids of someone who is already infected.
The two drugs in question are imatinib and nolitinib, more commonly known as Gleevec and Tasigna respectively. However, what good is this if they are not even as affordable in countries that are comparatively more well-off like Korea as we saw in the Dying for Drugs documentary? Prices for one 100mg pill can range from $20-$30, and at least 50% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa receive less than $1 per day. This happens to be the region in which the Ebola virus is most prevalent.
Is it Novartis’ obligation under UN declaration to provide these drugs that would otherwise be completely inaccessible and unaffordable to those with the virus? Will it be more effective to manufacture the drugs under compulsory licensing or to distribute them in some other way? Compulsory licensing is used in extreme national emergencies, but the virus in itself calls for emergency medical assistance at all times due to the rate in which the body becomes infected.
The significance of all of this is that while rare, the virus is extremely deadly and highly contagious. It is also important to recognize that animals can also become infected and whether the subject is dead or alive does not matter. More testing is underway, but this is just some food for thought if researchers find that theses drugs are ultimately effective. After all this would be quite a breakthrough in the fight against the Ebola virus, as there is no treatment, but what good is it if it cannot be put to use where it is needed most?