The Ebola patient struggling to survive in a Dallas hospital has begun receiving an experimental treatment for the deadly disease.
Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled to Dallas from Liberia more than a week ago after having close contact with Ebola in the West African country, is receiving an investigational drug known as brincidofovir, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas disclosed Monday afternoon.
The medication is produced by Chimerix, a North Carolina-based biotech firm that describes itself as a developer of “novel, oral antivirals in areas of high unmet medical need.”
On Monday, the company announced that it had made the drug available for emergency use in Ebola patients after requests from treating physicians and after receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA must sign off on the experimental use of unapproved drugs; there currently are no approved treatments or vaccines for Ebola.
“Chimerix is committed to working with global health organizations and government agencies in the fight against the Ebola virus outbreak,” Chimerix’s president, M. Michelle Berrey, said in a statement.
Brincidofovir is an antiviral drug developed to treat a range of DNA viruses, including those in the herpes family and adenovirus, which accounts for a sizable number of acute respiratory infections in children. The company, which also has sought to use the drug as a treatment against smallpox, said tests suggest it could prove effective against Ebola.
Duncan, who remains in critical condition at the hospital, joins a handful of other Ebola patients who have received experimental drugs during the course of the current outbreak.
Two U.S. missionaries infected this summer while working in West Africa were given doses of another unapproved drug, known as ZMapp. But the very limited supplies of that drug were soon exhausted, though the San Diego-based company behind it is trying to produce more as quickly as possible.
Another experimental medicine by a Canadian company, Tekmira, also was used on another American doctor who was flown to Nebraska from West Africa for treatment. The company also has noted the limited supplies of that drug.
It remains unclear what role the experimental drugs might have played in helping those patients who survived, but in recent days Duncan’s family has argued that he also should have access to any medications that might improve his odds.
“We want him to live,” Mawhen Jallah, 28, the daughter of Duncan’s girlfriend, told The Washington Post in a recent interview. “So we want the drug the other people used to get saved if they have it.”
Read the Post’s exclusive: How Ebola sped out of control