In an interview with Bloomberg News, Dr, Ben Neuman admits that there isn’t enough “panic” surrounding the Ebola virus for the pharmaceutical industry to justify developing a cure.
“It’s not just one drug that we need for Ebola, we need a cocktail of drugs and perhaps a nice vaccine that could be used, these all take a lot of money and right now in the history of what we know at least there have been fewer than 5,000 people infected with Ebola,” said Neuman, adding, “It sounds scary but I don’t know if there’s enough panic or enough people who are potential customers for these drugs to warrant a company, a private company, putting the money in it would take to develop these.” (emphasis mine).
Neuman’s admission underscores the fact that big pharma is driven not by a genuine urge to eradicate disease and bring relief to victims, but to make as much money as possible.
Indeed, an Ebola vaccine developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. which was tested on humans with positive results was put on hold by the FDA, leading doctors to create a petition urging the federal agency to lift the ban.
In this regard it’s interesting to compare the Ebola outbreak to the 2009 swine flu outbreak. As Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, revealed – drug companies put pressure on the World Health Organization to declare the H1N1 outbreak a pandemic because they already had a vaccine lined up and stood to make millions in profits.
Despite swine flu having a 0.04% mortality rate in western countries such as England, in comparison to Ebola’s 90% mortality rate, the level of hysteria whipped up around the swine flu outbreak was unlike anything seen before in modern times.
Governments issued warnings about mass riots, put morgues on alert to accept huge numbers of bodies, and prepared troops to police the streets, actions Wodarg described as being part of, “one of the greatest medical scandals of the century.”
When the crisis quickly subsided, governments were left with huge stocks of Tamiflu that they were forced to offload at basement prices, while pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline were laughing all the way to the bank.
Despite scientific studies which show that Ebola is now in fact airborne, both the United States and Germany have taken the unprecedented step of accepting Ebola victims. The level of fearmongering and hysteria that accompanied the swine flu outbreak has been noticeably absent in the case of the Ebola threat.
In a piece for the Independent, Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, highlights the fact that big pharma has largely ignored the Ebola crisis because it has thus far only affected people in Africa, slamming the “moral bankruptcy” of the pharmaceutical industry.
Ashton points to how Aids was killing black Africans for years before it spread to the west but that delays in developing treatments contributed to the hundreds of thousands of deaths that followed.
Given this history, it seems that many thousands more people will have to suffer excruciating deaths as a result of the Ebola virus before the pharmaceutical industry and governments work in tandem to fast track a cure.