Ebola Pill: Supply and Demand

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Ebola_jpgEbola is starting to make an impact on people in the Western world. A recently released Harvard School of Public Health/SSRS poll shows that four in ten (39%) US adults are concerned there will be a large outbreak in the United States, and a quarter (26%) are concerned they or someone in their close family may get sick with Ebola over the next year.

We can debate whether this is because more than 1,300 people have died (and another 2,400 are infected) in countries where the deadly disease is raging—Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone—or because two US aid workers who contracted the disease in Africa were flown home to the United States for treatment at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta. Luckily, no known cases of Ebola transmission have been reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no confirmed treatment for Ebola, and once contracted, the case fatality rate is up to 90 percent. Because no drugs are available, the World Health Organization (WHO) has backed in the use of experimental drugs, with the patient’s permission. One of the most promising experimental drugs, ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc in San Diego, CA, is not mass-produced.

However, David S. Fedson, retired professor of medicine, University of Virginia, and Steven M. Opal, professor medicine, Brown University, suggest that statins might provide a good treatment option, and they are readily available. The WHO is reticent to release statins as a treatment for Ebola, but as Fedson and Opal note, patients and their physicians should at least have the option to decide.

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