FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NOVEMBER 10, 2016 Contact: Colin Riley (617) 353-5386, firstname.lastname@example.org (Boston) –...
Original article from: The New Yorker; August 25, 2014 Issue. by James Surowiecki
The deadly hemorrhagic fever Ebola was first discovered in 1976, and it has haunted the public imagination for twenty years, ever since the publication of Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone.” Yet, in all that time, no drug has ever been approved to treat the disease. Now the deadliest outbreak yet is raging in West Africa, and there are no real tools to stop it. (Supplies of the experimental drug administered to two American patients have already run out.) The lack of an Ebola treatment is disturbing. But, given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.
When pharmaceutical companies are deciding where to direct their R. & D. money, they naturally assess the potential market for a drug candidate. That means that they have an incentive to target diseases that affect wealthier people (above all, people in the developed world), who can afford to pay a lot. They have an incentive to make drugs that many people will take. And they have an incentive to make drugs that people will take regularly for a long time—drugs like statins.