The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Lane: Ebola drug should be used

Before I left campus last spring, reports of a growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa had begun to spring up on my Twitter feed. 

A few months later, my nightmare-inducing friend Ebola was back in the news. This time the story came with the added fear factor that, according to CNN, Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, referred to the outbreak as “unprecedented” and “moving faster than our efforts to control it.”

Oh, great.

Not only has this Ebola outbreak killed scores, but it has also been at the root of several conflicts, including whether and to what degree the United States should help the fight (while there are problems right here on American soil), how to help West African nations with cultures that have created stigmas surrounding the illness increasing the difficulty of fighting the disease and the biggest conflict of all, which began just weeks ago, concerning the experimental drug ZMapp.

When two American aid workers fighting the outbreak in West Africa were transferred to Emory hospital in Atlanta just a few weeks ago, they became the first humans ever given the experimental drug. According to ABC News, even the manufacturer, California-based Mapp Pharmaceuticals, acknowledges there is little evidence to prove the drug’s efficacy in fighting Ebola.

Both American Ebola patients were released last week, testing negative for the virus; the role the drug played in their recovery remains unknown.

All this combined with the fact that ZMapp is being produced in quantities so small that even if the outbreak were to stay at its current level, there wouldn’t be enough to treat all the individuals affected by the disease.

Those opposed to the use of the drug have argued that given the limited quantity, hundreds, if not thousands, of people would not get the drug while a select handful who are likely already receiving higher quality care would receive the drug.

It would seem, however, that there has never been a more ideal time to test the experimental drug.

We are in the midst of the largest Ebola outbreak on record. Such an opportunity to conduct testing on humans for a drug that has the potential to defeat the virus (for which there is no known cure) may (hopefully) not come again for a long time.

Not only would offering the drug to as many individuals as possible speed up the testing process — moving the drug closer to large-scale production — but given that the disease kills up to 90 percent of those infected in a painful manner, including internal and external bleeding, side effects may be a small price to pay.

The biggest issue opponents of human testing of ZMapp point to is how the drug company determines which patients get access to the limited supply of the drug. However, should the drug prove effective, production of the drug would ramp up, subsequently making it available to the masses.

It would seem that the most reasonable distribution channel would be a simple lottery. This combined with a much-needed educational campaign to eliminate the stigmas in West African culture surrounding those infected with the illness may be the beginning of the end for this outbreak.

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