Two Ebola treatments improve survival rates in early tests

A clinical trial of potential treatments for the Ebola virus was halted early after two of the drugs showed significant survival rates in people that received them, according to public health officials.

One drug is manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and the other was developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The clinical trial will continue by comparing just those two drugs in Ebola treatment centers in Congo.

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For people with a low viral load — meaning they had only been infected a few days before they started treatment — only 6 percent of those who got the Regeneron drug died, and only 11 percent of those who received the NIAID-developed drug died, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said on a call with reporters Monday.

According to Fauci, the mortality rate for remdesivir, an antiviral drug made by Gilead, was 33 percent. Fauci said 24 percent of patients who received ZMapp, an older antibody cocktail that has had some success in the past, died.

While Fauci stressed that the results were only preliminary and the numbers may change, he said the results were “some very good news.”

“We may be able to improve the survival of people with Ebola,” Fauci said.  

The four-treatment trial had enrolled 680 patients since November. The original plan for the trial involved enrolling 725 patients, but the trial’s independent data and safety monitoring board analyzed findings based on 499 patients late last week. 

They found the Regeneron cocktail had passed a key threshold of survival rates established before the trial began, and the NIAID-developed drug was not far behind. 

Patients who received the other two drugs in the past 10 days now have the option of receiving the more successful ones, at the discretion of their treating physician.

Fauci said Regeneron and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which has licensed the NIH compound, have pledged that there are enough doses readily available for patients that need it.

The Ebola outbreak has raged in Congo for more than a year. It has infected more than 2,700 people, and has killed more than 1,800.

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