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Profit Motive Big Hurdle For Ebola Drugs: Experts

Update Date: Sep 15, 2014 09:36 AM EDT

Ebola has been evoking death and terror for the last four decades, but because of money, it is yet to be eradicated, according to experts. 

Ebola breaks out rarely in impoverished African countries and that tiny and poor market means, the disease has been a very low priority for Big Pharma. 

Today, after years of low-key progress with the Pentagon as main funder, the search for vaccines and drugs for Ebola has been thrown into higher gear and, for now, the profit factor has been put to one side, according to a press release. 

"Until this west African epidemic, Ebola was not a public health problem and (was) a really rare disease," said Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, said in an email to AFP.

"There was very little interest in all quarters, not just pharma," Piot added.

"Things have changed now, and two major companies are investing in a vaccine-GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and (Johnson & Johnson subsidiary) Janssen."

According to experts, Ebola has claimed fewer than 2,000 lives in almost 40 years, which apparently is a minute toll compared with other diseases. 

"If these 2,000 deaths had occurred in industrialized countries, things may have been different, but it was 2,000 dead in the middle of Africa, so nobody cared very much," Sylvain Baize, in charge of the Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers Reference Centre at France's Pasteur Institute, said sardonically.

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