Monday, August 11, 2014

Ebola Biologic Stirs Bioethics Discussion

I was quoted (and my expertise inaccurately described) in the San Diego Union-Tribune’s article about the ethical issues raised by the experimental ZMapp biologic for the treatment of persons infected by the Ebola virus.  I am not a specialist in bioethics, which is the description provided for me in the article, and only claim to know something about the ethical issues that are raised in drug development.  The otherwise reasonably well-written story is here. There has been a fair amount written about the ethical issues in this situation, where there are very limited amounts of a drug that has only animal data supporting its safety and efficacy.  The New York Times article by Andrew Pollock is here. Arthur Caplan, who has moved to NYU since his infamous involvement in the tragic Jesse Gelsinger gene therapy death at the University of Pennsylvania, is quoted at the very end of Pollock’s article.  Caplan expresses concern about the appropriate allocation of resources to therapy research versus public health in the expanding Ebola epidemic.  He may be correct that expenditures for drug research and development will do little for the current outbreak, but that is largely irrelevant.  I doubt that the development and scale-up of Mapp Biopharmaceutical’s biologic is diverting significant resources from the public health measures that Caplan favors.

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