December 14, 2017

Ebola Clinical Trials In Ghana

“Before any new medicine can be given to patients, detailed information about how it works and how safe it is must be collected.

Clinical trials are the key to getting that data – and without volunteers to take part in the trials, there would be no new treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and arthritis”. – Philippa Roxby, BBC health reporter.

I’ve come across a few posts on facebook questioning the testing of Ebola Vaccines in Ghana considering there were no reported cases in the Country. Hopefully this post will clarify a few things surrounding the Ebola clinical trials process.

Whiles writing this I came across another post from Citi news. Fear of the unknown always causes controversy and clearly the trials are of concern to Ghanaians and rightly so.

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A few years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Save the Pharmaceutical Industry” on the current challenges facing the drug manufacturing industry.

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Pharmaceutical companies are not the most popular of industries within the scientific community and it’s no secret the gross mistakes in practises that have occurred in the past with tainted errors like the Thalidomide story (a drug given to pregnant ladies to curb morning sickness with unforeseen serious side effects), recalled drugs, trials gone wrong and the within the research community, ethical lessons learned from the Helena Lacks story (a young African American lady who suffered from cervical cancer and her (unusual) cells were harvested and used for research without her knowledge nor that of her family’s. ‘Hela cells’ as they are now popularly known is widely used in scientific research and the family to date never received a dime).

As part of lessons learnt and avoiding preventable errors in future, there’s been an ongoing campaign to make all trials publicly available including the data. Many industries have endorsed the initiative and signed on to it including WHO and GSK, today (8th June 2015) David Cameron urged all G7 leaders support the ‘alltrials’ campaign.   The petition is ongoing and can still be signed here.

With regards to the actual ebola clinical trial process and how subjects are selected, be assured it’s no game of chance. The actual process from identifying a compound which could be become a drug to actually being developed into a useable drug and hitting the markets takes an average of 10-15 years. In circumstances where there’s a pandemic risk, there’s the need for the process to be accelerated as seen in instances such as swine flu and Ebola. This is however not the first time that the Ebola vaccine has been trialled. Information on the previous experimental vaccine trials is available here.

Designing a drug begins with literature review to narrow down on a target substance of interest. After several experiments, you hope to identify the right substance. In vitro (outside the body)  test will then be performed followed by In vivo (inside the body) experiments to identify how effective the drug is. In some cases computational modelling will be conducted before in vitro / in vivo experiments.  IN total tests will be performed on animal cells, animal tissue, inside the living animal, on human cells/tissue and if successful after all this before tests on human subjects can be allowed. In most cases, the process is halted before even getting to the human testing / clinical trial stage due to unfavourable results.

Learn more about the clinical trial process here.

Below is the schedule for the testing of the Ebola Vaccine and all information regarding the Ebola clinical trials can be found here. So before anyone criticizes the government for allowing the Ebola clinical trials in Ghana and particularly the Volta region, perhaps a better understanding of the process may shed more light and better inform your opinion.

 

Which vaccines are being tested and where?

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As quoted previously remember;

“Before any new medicine can be given to patients, detailed information about how it works and how safe it is must be collected.

Clinical trials are the key to getting that data – and without volunteers to take part in the trials, there would be no new treatments for serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and arthritis”. – Philippa Roxby, BBC health reporter.

That includes EBOLA!