Vaccine child medicine pharmaceutical health Gates Foundation/Flickr

Drogas que salvan vidas para todos

PRINCETON – El brote mortal del virus del ébola en Liberia, Sierra Leona y Guinea que comenzó el año pasado puso el foco en un problema en la producción de drogas farmacéuticas. Una vez que quedó claro que la epidemia no se contendría rápidamente, varias empresas enseguida dispusieron llevar a cabo pruebas clínicas de potenciales tratamientos y vacunas, lo que indica que ya tenían la capacidad de producir candidatos plausibles.

El ébola no es una enfermedad nueva: se la identificó por primera vez en 1976. Sin embargo, antes de 2014 el brote más importante se había producido en Uganda, en 2000, cuando 425 personas se infectaron y 224 murieron. Si bien el ébola es conocido por ser contagioso y muchas veces fatal, se pensaba que sólo la población rural empobrecida de África estaba en riesgo. Para las firmas farmacéuticas, el desarrollo de una vacuna o tratamiento no era comercialmente atractivo, y por ende no garantizaba la inversión.

Todo eso cambió con el último brote. En septiembre de 2014, los Centros para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades de Estados Unidos predijeron que, en el peor de los casos, 1,4 millón de personas podrían infectarse en el lapso de cuatro meses. Los temores alimentados por los medios de que la enfermedad podría propagarse a los países ricos llevaron a que se tomaran precauciones extraordinarias. En Estados Unidos, el presidente Barack Obama le pidió al Congreso 6.200 millones de dólares, incluidos 2.400 millones para reducir el riesgo de que la enfermedad se establezca en Estados Unidos, y abrió 50 centros de tratamiento del ébola en el país.

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