3 Little-Known Drugs for Treating Ebola
TKM-Ebola is another experimental drug being used in the fight against Ebola. TKM-Ebola likely works by blocking the virus from making certain important proteins. It is being developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
In January 2014, the first human studies of TKM-Ebola started. However, as is always the case, the first studies were done in healthy people to begin evaluating the safety of the drug in humans. In July 2014, the FDA halted a TKM-Ebola study in healthy humans to request additional safety data. At that time, the drug was essentially put on hold by the FDA. However, in August 2014, the FDA partially lifted that hold, allowing the drug to be used in emergency protocols in certain situations.
Like Zmapp, TKM-Ebola is given intravenously. It comes as a powder that needs no refrigeration.
Brincidofovir is an oral antiviral medication. It is not yet approved for use in humans, although it is currently further along in clinical trials for the treatment of other viral illnesses, compared to other potential Ebola drugs. It is being developed by Chimerix, Inc.
In August 2014, test-tube data suggested that the drug is active against Ebola. However, sometimes test-tube studies don't actually reflect what may actually happen in humans. It's not yet known if brincidofovir is effective for Ebola treatment.
One of the huge advantages with brincidofovir (if it turns out that it actually works) is that it is taken by mouth and doesn't need refrigeration.
There are at least two barriers to getting these drugs. First, they are only available through experimental use protocols. Typically, a doctor must contact the manufacturer and the FDA to get approval for the use of an experimental drug for each patient. Second, there must actually be some drug left (this is proving to be the most difficult barrier to overcome).
Why aren't supplies available? Remember that until recently, there was virtually no market for Ebola drugs (small outbreaks pop up from time to time and are typically contained with standard infection control procedures), and none of these drugs had been approved yet. Also, some of these drugs are tricky to manufacturer.