La ética del ébola

LONDRES – El virus del Ébola está golpeando una región de África mucho más grande que cualquiera de las anteriores, y muchos se preguntan si habrá llegado el momento de empezar a administrar drogas y vacunas todavía no probadas. Puesto que la enfermedad puede matar hasta a un 90% de los afectados (una tasa de mortalidad que excede a la peste bubónica), no parece que relajar las normas clínicas en este caso suponga un riesgo. Sin embargo, la propuesta trae aparejadas difíciles cuestiones éticas, y la urgencia de la situación no nos deja mucho tiempo para deliberaciones.

Una de las razones por las que no hay curas o vacunas probadas para la fiebre hemorrágica del Ébola es el carácter escurridizo de estas enfermedades, transmitidas al hombre desde poblaciones animales que sirven al patógeno como reservorios donde puede desarrollarse y mutar. Esto dificulta a los investigadores seguir el ritmo a la aparición de nuevas variedades del virus.

Pero otra razón es que la producción de vacunas cada vez interesa menos a las empresas farmacéuticas. Actualmente solamente cuatro empresas se dedican a la producción, en vez de las veintiséis que había 50 años atrás. Esas empresas saben que el retorno de la inversión será relativamente pequeño, dada la lentitud de los procesos de fabricación, que demora la disponibilidad de los productos (aunque hay nuevos métodos más veloces que ofrecen esperanzas de cambio).

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