President Barack Obama said he doesn’t have enough data right now to consider fast-tracking a new, unapproved Ebola medicine created by a San Diego-based pharmaceutical company, he confirmed at a press conference Wednesday.
The president was asked about the Z-Mapp drug during his press conference to wrap up this week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, specifically about whether he’s considering sending supplies of this drug to Ebola outbreak patients in West Africa.
“We gotta let the science guide us. Not all the info is in as to whether this drug is helpful,” said the president, adding that it’s “premature” to consider fast-tracking the approval of the drug.
“Let's get all the health workers we need on the ground, nip early outbreaks, and then during the course of this process, appropriate to see if additional drugs can improve survivability,” President Obama continued.
The president said it’s important to remember that “Ebola is controllable if there is a public health system in place.”
“Despite the pain and hardship, and despite the fact we have to take this seriously, it’s important to remind ourselves that this is not an airborne disease and can be contained,” he added. “We're focusing on the public health approach now because we know how to do that and will continue to seek info.”
Z-Mapp, developed at Mapp Biopharmaceutical in Sorrento Valley over the course of 10 years, was the drug given to the two Ebola victims from America.
The secret drug cocktail had not been tried on humans before, but has shown effective signs of improving symptoms in monkeys. The drug, developed from antibodies in mice fighting the Ebola virus, was credited with saving four monkeys infected with Ebola after it was given to them 24 hours after infection.
Three experimental samples of the drug at subzero temperatures were flown to Liberia last week to save the two Americans infected with Ebola, according to CNBC.
Dr. Kent Brantly was given a dose and by the next day was showing signs of improvement. After two doses, American patient Nancy Writebol’s condition also was improving.
Z-Mapp is not FDA-approved. Use of it was granted under the FDA's "compassionate use" clause only given in extraordinary circumstances. There are only a handful of doses available.