Ebola Drug Trial Canceled

As the number of Ebola cases declines, Chimerix is unable to recruit enough patients for its trial in Liberia testing the antiviral drug brincidofovir.

Feb 2, 2015
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA, PLOS BIOLOGYThe good news is that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa appears to be slowing dramatically, with fewer than 100 new cases per week in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. But as a result, Durham, North Carolina-based Chimerix has found it difficult to fill a trial intended to test the antiviral drug brincidofovir at a clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, having treated fewer than 10 patients since the study began on January 2. Last week (January 30), the company announced on that it was canceling the study.

“Without having enough patients there to make any conclusions, it wasn’t feasible for us to push forward,” Chimerix President and CEO M. Michelle Berrey told The New York Times (NYT).

And Chimerix isn’t alone in the struggle to enroll Ebola patients. Organizers of a Guinean trial to test Fujifilm’s antiviral drug Avigan are looking to include additional clinics in order to find enough patients, Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist at Doctors Without Borders, told NYT. And several upcoming trials could also be affected. Of course, it’s a good problem to have, Sprecher said. “It’s more important to end the outbreak than to get the trial done.”

Meanwhile, as research on the Ebola virus continues, researchers are clamoring for more data. “A lot of Ebola sequencing has happened but the data hasn’t always been uploaded,” Emma Thomson of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research told BBC News. “It’s an international emergency so people need to get the data out there to allow it to be analyzed in different ways by different labs.”

“It would be tragic if, during a crisis like this, data was not being adequately shared with the public health community,” agreed Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia. “The rapid sharing of data could help enable more rapid control of the outbreak.”