warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Ebola Cure Doesn’t Exist Because It’s Not Lucrative

Ashley Yang |
August 5, 2014 | 5:08 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Ebola is a neglected disease because it afflicts mainly people in developing countries. (European Commission DG ECHO)
Ebola is a neglected disease because it afflicts mainly people in developing countries. (European Commission DG ECHO)
Ever since two Americans became infected with Ebola while performing aid work in West Africa, fear that the deadly virus might take root in the U.S. has slowly encroached upon everyday Americans. 

Vox notes that although 40 years has passed since the discovery of Ebola, we are still not closer to finding either a cure or a vaccine that is proven to work. The fact that we are currently dealing with its deadliest outbreak, one four times larger than the first is proof that the medical community has failed in this regard. 

But the cause of this current predicament has less to do with a deficit in scientific ingenuity and a lot more with the identity of Ebola’s main victims. 

All Ebola outbreaks have happened in Africa, because the species of fruit bats that transmit the virus to humans is endemic to that continent. The countries where Ebola is seen also happen to be some of the poorest on the planet, with correspondingly low per capita spending on healthcare. Adding the fact that all those who died in the current outbreak have been African nationals, it’s clear that Ebola is seen as a poor, developing-nations’ disease - and therefore not a priority for pharmaceutical research. 

Most research and development in medicine is privately funded with one obvious main focus - to make money. They accomplish that by marketing patented products to people who are willing and able to pay high prices for them. So it should be no surprise that drug companies would rather put more money into fighting baldness and erectile dysfunction than keeping the world’s poorest alive.

Out of 850 health products approved in the U.S. by regulators between 2000 to 2011, only 37 focused on neglected diseases. And as long as the cost of those diseases are disproportionately borne by the poor, we shouldn’t be so shocked when they threaten the lives of people Americans can actually relate to.

Reach Executive Producer Ashley Yang here, or follow her on Twitter. 



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.