An experimental drug is helping patients infected with Ebola survive the virus as it sweeps across the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak has already killed at least 1,800 people.
Strongly positive results with the treatment made by US drugmaker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., called REGN-EB3, led investigators to stop the trial just nine months after it began and change its design, dropping the previous standard of care and another experimental therapy.
Patients across the country will now get either REGN-EB3 or mAb114, a drug that’s being developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that also appeared promising.
The medications may help reduce deaths and encourage those who are just starting to show signs of the disease to seek care. So far, two-thirds of the people infected in the latest outbreak have died. Violence in Congo has added to the difficulties in containing the epidemic.
“We do have now what looks like treatments for a disease which not too long ago we really had no therapeutic approach at all,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the institute.
“We may be able to improve the survival of people with Ebola, and it may even make people more enthusiastic about coming to care.”
The study compared experimental medicines with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.’s ZMapp, which was considered the standard of care after a previous trial suggested it may help reduce death rates.
An independent group of advisers halted the trial on Friday after 681 patients were treated because those getting Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 were significantly less likely to die than those on ZMapp.
It is known as the PALM study, an acronym of Pamoja Tulinde Maisha, which means Together Saves Lives in Swahili.
In the study, 29 percent of patients given REGN-EB3 died, compared with 49 percent of those treated with ZMapp and 53 percent on remdesivir, which was developed by Gilead Sciences Inc.