L’éthique de la lutte contre Ebola

PRINCETON – En fin de compte, c’est peut-être une chance qu’une demi douzaine de personnes des pays développés – dont quatre aux Etats-Unis et une en Espagne – aient contracté le virus Ebola. Aussi tragique qu’en ait été l’issue pour Thomas Duncan, le seul de ces patients à être décédé, si la totalité des 13.000 cas et près de 5000 victimes avaient eu lieu en Afrique uniquement, le virus Ebola n’aurait jamais fait l’objet d’une telle attention de la part des pays riches.

En ce sens, Ebola est – ou plutôt était – un exemple de ce qui est parfois connu comme le ratio 90/10 : 90 pour cent de la recherche médicale porte sur des maladies qui ne représentent que 10 pour cent de la charge mondiale de morbidité. La communauté internationale connaît la nature létale du virus Ebola depuis 1976 ; mais parce que ses victimes étaient pauvres, les laboratoires pharmaceutiques n’avaient pas de motif pour développer un vaccin. En fait, ces laboratoires avaient plus à gagner en mettant au point un traitement de la calvitie chez les hommes.

Les fonds consacrés à la recherche par les gouvernements des pays riches ciblent également de manière disproportionnée les maladies dont sont victimes leurs citoyens, plutôt que des maladies comme le paludisme et les diarrhées, responsables de pertes en vies humaines bien plus importantes.

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