Vaccine child medicine pharmaceutical health Gates Foundation/Flickr

Levensreddende geneesmiddelen voor iedereen

PRINCETON – De dodelijke epidemie van ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone en Guinee die vorig jaar uitbrak heeft een probleem in de productie van geneesmiddelen onder de aandacht gebracht. Toen eenmaal duidelijk was dat de epidemie niet snel zou kunnen worden ingedamd, zorgden diverse bedrijven voor klinische proeven met potentiële therapieën en vaccins, erop zinspelend dat ze al over het vermogen beschikten om werkzame medicijnen te produceren.

Ebola is geen nieuwe ziekte: zij werd voor het eerst in 1976 ontdekt. Vóór 2014 vond de grootste uitbraak echter in Oeganda plaats, in 2000, toen 425 mensen werden besmet en 224 het leven lieten. Hoewel bekend was dat ebola besmettelijk en vaak dodelijk was, werd gedacht dat louter de verarmde plattelandsbevolking van Afrika gevaar zou lopen. Voor farmaceutische firma's was de ontwikkeling van een vaccin of therapie commercieel niet aantrekkelijk, zodat dit geen investeringen rechtvaardigde.

Dit veranderde allemaal met de jongste uitbraak. In september 2014 voorspelden de United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dat er in het ergste geval binnen vier maanden 1,4 miljoen mensen konden worden besmet. De door de media gevoede angst dat de ziekte zich zou kunnen verspreiden naar de rijke landen leidde tot uitzonderlijke voorzorgsmaatregelen. In de Verenigde Staten vroeg president Barack Obama het Congres om $6,2 mrd, waarvan $2,4 mrd bedoeld was om het risico terug te dringen dat de ziekte naar Amerika zou overspringen en om vijftig Amerikaanse behandelingscentra in te richten.

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