The fantastic news came yesterday that Dr. Craig Spencer, the last patient in the U.S. with Ebola, has been cured. While this development certainly inspires hope, there is still much to be done in West Africa before we can celebrate the end of this dangerous disease that has already taken nearly 5,000 lives.
Rare and infectious diseases like Ebola present unique challenges to the health care community. It is no small task to address these challenges, and in many cases, preparedness is the key to success. To get a better sense of how we can address these challenges and prepare for the future, we posed the following question on the Conversations forum:
Stakeholders from across the health ecosystem weighed-in on this important and timely issue. Being ready for whatever the future may bring is incredibly important and a theme we heard echoed throughout the discussion. Additionally, coming together to pool resources and skill sets was noted by many as being critical to successful outcomes.
Dr. Paul Stoffels, Chief Scientific Officer of Johnson & Johnson, said it best: “The more we can work together, the more lives we can save.” Johnson & Johnson has made a major commitment of resources in addition to accelerating the production of its experimental Ebola vaccine regimen. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the biopharmaceutical industry to expedite the process of bringing these treatments to those who need them most.
PhRMA’s Dr. Bill Chin noted the process of making a medicine like this safe and ready for use is often very lengthy, but as Donna Altenpohl of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) mentioned, public-private partnerships organized by the WHO are working to condense this process to bring about results in the near-term.
As illustrated by GSK and Johnson & Johnson, biopharmaceutical companies are committed to working on treatments for known diseases to prepare for potential infectious outbreaks in the future. Others in the health care community understand the importance of preparedness as well. Mark Mosely of MAP International credited his organization’s swift response to the outbreak of Ebola in March 2014, with the fact that they had the supplies on hand that work to contain the disease, such as personal protection suits for health care workers.
Dr. John P. Howe also highlighted the importance of reacting quickly when an infectious disease is identified. His organization, Project HOPE, is working with Sierra Leone’s government to rehabilitate its health care system in the devastating wake of Ebola. Other non-profits, such as Direct Relief have been delivering 100s of tons of supplies to West Africa since September, as noted by Andrew MacCalla, Director of International Programs and Emergency Response.
The steps highlighted on the forum are incredibly important to keep in mind now, as we fight the Ebola outbreak, and later, as we take steps to make sure we can stop further outbreaks before reaching this scale again.
As we ruminate over these suggestions by key stakeholders in the fight against Ebola, there are some additional resources that may be helpful to consider. Erin Mullen of Rx Response provided a checklist that everyone must keep in mind, from pharmacists to company executives, to stay safe and prevent further spread of the disease. Also, take a look at PhRMA’s Ebola page for links to helpful resources from WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thank you to all of our respondents for their insightful contributions to this conversation of international importance. The fight continues and we would love to hear your thoughts. Let us know here or on Facebook and Twitter.