China sends Ebola drug to Africa

2014-10-16 09:24

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Could a Chinese experimental drug be the treatment so desperately needed in the fight against Ebola?

Aid workers have taken the medication with them to Africa, “in case” one of them is infected.

The drug is manufactured by a Chinese pharmaceutical company with military ties. The company is planning clinical trials there to combat a deadly outbreak of the disease, executives at the firm said today.

Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings has supplied several thousand doses of its drug JK-05 to the region, chief operating officer Jia Zhongxin said. More doses could be sent if needed, Jia said.

An Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst on record, has killed more than 4 000 people.

Governments and drugmakers around the globe have been racing to find a treatment for the outbreak, which has spread as far as the United States and Europe. US President Barack Obama has pledged to get more “aggressive” against the disease.

“Aid workers have already taken the drug with them, and if a case breaks out [among the aid workers], then the drug may be used,” added Huo Caixia, Sihuan’s assistant general manager.

Sihuan, part-owned by US investment bank Morgan Stanley, is hoping to get the drug fast-tracked for civilian use in China. It has signed an agreement with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, a research unit, to seek approval for the drug’s use in China and push it to market.

The drug, approved in China for emergency military use only, was initially developed by the academy.

The company is preparing for clinical trials in Africa and could test the drug on African Ebola patients, said Huo. So far no Chinese nationals have been infected.

“Right now we’re formulating a plan for clinical trials, and don’t rule out the possibility of using African patients,” she said, adding that any outbreak of Ebola in Asia or China would speed up the drug’s timetable to market.

There are about a million Chinese nationals living in Africa, with about 10 000 in the countries most affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

China has sent hundreds of aid workers to Africa to help in the fight against the Ebola outbreak and more than $35 million in medical aid to the worst affected countries.

China’s military has also given Sihuan the green light to produce emergency supplies of the drug.

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