The Ebola outbreak that has shaken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea has generated increased demand for the prevention drugs Mapp Biopharmaceutical and Isotope Therapeutics, which have both developed Ebola treatments. The strength of that demand has surprised experts in health-care and infectious disease and means that both companies will likely find commercial success in administering these and other viral therapies.
As these treatments become widely used, the outbreak is also changing the routine use of each day’s workout. Even those with no Ebola symptoms are giving it a try; a two-hour session of intense running, for example, might get a short treatment, delaying a return to high-intensity cycling.
When all treatments have been tried, “there will be some times when we’ll not be recommending that people run or exercise at all, and that will be what we want in our treatment programs,” said Dr. Sonia Saraiya, medical director of the GE Healthymagination Research Institute.
The outbreak is “more like a threat,” said Dr. Timothy Jensen, director of global development for Isotope Therapeutics, “than a chance for us to make a lot of money.” The country’s government has spent about $12 million for the purchase of medications for the current outbreak, according to the company.
But the efforts of scientists at Mapp and Isotope Therapeutics to bring these treatments to patients has involved a long regulatory review process, much like the review process for drugs after approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Even after permission is granted to the clinical trial sites, companies have to wait for the results to be analyzed by pharmaceutical experts. Many trials are delayed as scientists work out the details of how the drugs are to be administered.
The long process means that supplies of both drugs are limited. Mapp’s supply of the drug ZMapp (made with daunorubicin) may be exhausted by mid-November; Isotope’s supply of IVIU (used to administer intravenous booster TMAO to the prior week’s recipients) could last only through November, according to Dr. Paul Grimes, Isotope’s chief operating officer.
Nevertheless, Mapp and Isotope are preparing to increase production of the drugs.