As you may have heard, there’s been a somewhat scary Ebola outbreak in western Africa. You may have also heard about what some are calling a “secret miracle serum” that effectively stops the impact of the virus for those who catch it. It’s an experimental drug that hasn’t undergone human clinical trials yet, but it was apparently given to a couple of Americans and appears to be working. There’s some indication that it would take a couple months to produce a larger number of doses — though, again, the lack of testing here means that people really aren’t sure if it will work (or if there are serious side effects).
That said, as one article notes, a big reason that there hasn’t been much testing on this is because treating poor people in Africa just isn’t very profitable for the drug companies:
“These outbreaks affect the poorest communities on the planet. Although they do create incredible upheaval, they are relatively rare events,” said Daniel Bausch, a medical researcher in the US who works on Ebola and other infectious diseases.
“So if you look at the interest of pharmaceutical companies, there is not huge enthusiasm to take an Ebola drug through phase one, two, and three of a trial and make an Ebola vaccine that maybe a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people will use.”
While some may question whether or not Bausch’s statement is just from frustration from where he is, Big Pharma execs more or less confirm his claims. Remember that it was just a few months ago that we wrote about Bayer’s CEO claiming directly that they make drugs for rich people who can afford it:
Bayer Chief Executive Officer Marijn Dekkers called the compulsory license “essentially theft.”
“We did not develop this medicine for Indians,” Dekkers said Dec. 3. “We developed it for western patients who can afford it.”
As we noted at the time, it’s worth comparing that statement to what George Merck, the former President of Merck said many decades ago concerning the pharma industry:
We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.
It seems that we’ve come a long way from those days.