Giroir: 'We're Behind the Curve' In Ebola Drug Development

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Health officials say the body of Thomas Eric Duncan will be cremated.

Duncan is the first person to die of Ebola on U.S. soil and his was the first confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.

Four Americans who contracted Ebola since the outbreak began in West Africa have received treatment in the U.S.

At this point, a freelance cameraman for NBC receiving treatment in Nebraska is the sole Ebola patient in the U.S., although health officials are monitoring dozens of people who were in contact with Duncan.

Meantime, federal officials have announced that screening for Ebola will begin on Saturday at Kennedy Airport in New York, with other airports to follow.

Duncan's death not only underscores how serious the disease is, but also how difficult it is to treat it.

All the Ebola patients in the U.S. were treated with experimental drugs, therapies that have not passed the stringent approval of the FDA.

Currently, there are no FDA-approved medicines or vaccines for Ebola on the market. Manufacture of the drug ZMapp and other therapies are being fast-tracked.

Dr. Brett Giroir, the director of the Texas task force, tells Here & Now's Robin Young the U.S. needs more safety information on these drugs and that Congress should make the development of Ebola and other infectious disease drugs a priority.

Interview Highlights: Dr. Brett Giroir

On the FDA fast-tracking experimental drugs

“Not only are these not approved by the FDA, which means that they've not gone through the full gamut of testing, but these are still very, very early in clinical development. ZMapp, for example, has only been given — to my knowledge — to three humans.

"It went right from early trials in non-human primates right into a person. These are very early in development, so we need to get information on all of these very, very quickly to understand whether they can help. It’s still a possibility that these experimental agents could actually hurt the patient. We just don’t have the data. But based on animal models they all look very promising.”

“Whether the drugs are approved or not, we need to rapidly gain more experience, certainly safety experience in humans, because if you knew these were safe, you’d feel a lot more comfortable taking the chance on a patient who’s sick.”

On working toward viable vaccines

“This really is a question of continued funding, because there will not be a real international market for most of these drugs. Now Ebola is widespread, but God willing, it will be contained in Africa by typical public health measures far before we can have millions of drugs or vaccines out there to support it."

“I have spoken to many leaders within the federal government who are responsible in this area, and they are working absolutely as fast they can to support the private companies and industries to scale these vaccines up and get them through more advanced testing.”


  • Dr. Brett Giroir, director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response and head of the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

This segment aired on October 10, 2014.


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