Canadian pharmaceuticual company,Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation has stopped testing their drug formulation on Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, saying it became clear that the drug wasn’t showing any improvement in the patients. The testing was scheduled to end anyway.
“The Phase II clinical trial of TKM-Ebola-Guinea has reached a predefined statistical endpoint and enrollment has been closed,” the company said in a statement.
He added that the drug tested in Sierra Leone was not the same version that had completely protected monkeys from a lethal dose of virus.”It’s not the best product that they have. It’s not the best formulation,” Geisbert said. “This is not what we tested in monkeys.”
Ebola has infected more than 27,000 people in an ongoing epidemic in West Africa, killing more than 11,000 of them. Tragically, this is speculated to rise if the epidemic is not brough under control, since there is no approved treatment for Ebola yet. The disease has a death rate of 50% or more, and all doctors can do is keep patients hydrated, breathing and comfortable.
When the West African epidemic got bad, companies and governments rushed various experimental treatments and vaccines into the filed, from simple blood transfusions from survivors to patients, to more sophisticated plasma transfusions, to drugs such as Tekmira’s, another treatment called ZMapp, and existing antiviral pills.
Fortunately, the epidemic has dropped off but this makes it harder to enroll enough people to test a drug.
The company says it will release full details later.
Geisbert said the company would have been hard-pressed to show that the drug was helping patients in Liberia. “Do you give this product because it’s better than nothing or do you take the safe approach and say sorry, we don’t want to play?” he asked.
“We all want to do the right thing. Everybody wants to save lives.”
Dr. Rick Sacra, an American medical missionary infected in Liberia last year, got Tekmira’s drug and survived. But he also got many other treatments.
The drug uses bits of genetic material called small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs for short.