What can be done across the health care community to best respond to infectious diseases like Ebola?

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What can be done across the health care community to best respond to infectious diseases like Ebola?

The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, with multiple cases in the U.S., is of great concern to PhRMA and its members. Patients are at the center of everything we do, and the biopharmaceutical industry is ready to help individuals who have been affected by this devastating disease.

Biopharmaceutical researchers have been working to develop vaccines and treatments even before the recent outbreak, and as a result there are at least two vaccines for Ebola currently in the pipeline. While it typically takes between 10 and 15 years of research and development and an average of $1.2 billion to bring a drug to market, the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking for ways to help expedite the process during this critical time of need. The organization has reached out to Ebola experts and researchers from the biopharmaceutical industry and across the health care ecosystem to create a plan that accelerates the development of these two vaccines.

This resulted in the WHO committing to work with those involved to expedite the development of these vaccines so they can be used safely in the affected countries.

The industry is not only working to develop new vaccines and treatments, but also providing additional funding and resources to help address the Ebola epidemic. The funds and supplies donated by our members will help enable the immediate mobilization of resources, including medical products and personal protective gear to control the spread of infection.

It is important to remember that while Ebola is a highly contagious disease, applying precautionary measures in health care settings and isolating sick patients are still the primary ways to stop the spread of the disease. To learn more about what our member companies are doing, we encourage you to check out our new Ebola webpage, and if you have questions about the disease, please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

Dr. Bill Chin
EVP, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, PhRMA

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Dr. Bill Chin
EVP, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, PhRMA

Dr. Bill Chin leads PhRMA’s Scientific & Regulatory Affairs department. A physican, an endocrinologist and an academic at heart, Dr. Chin envisions establishing PhRMA as the premiere convener in advancing drug discovery and development, regulatory sciences and collaborative partnerships.

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What can be done across the health care community to best respond to infectious diseases like Ebola?

Ebola response is a model of collaboration

The constant stream of photos and reports about Ebola from West Africa tragically illustrate the speed at which disease can spread, devastating communities and reshaping daily life. GSK is working with many partners at an unprecedented speed and with passionate focus to try to develop a vaccine to limit the total number of deaths from this epidemic and future outbreaks. While the current crisis is our focus, there also are lessons for the future: US health and security can be threatened by events half a world away and the global community is not fully prepared for such disease outbreaks.

We commend world health authorities, governments, public and private entities for their commitment and collaboration to aggressively meet this urgent health need, but we acknowledge the need to improve our preparations to respond to other global health crises before the next outbreak or epidemic. Americans have lived through such threats, including the anthrax-containing letters mailed to Congressional offices and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic that caused more than 10,000 deaths.  We must move now to prevent and contain future epidemics, whether it is Ebola or another emerging infectious disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) convened a meeting last week with governments, agencies, charities and companies, including GSK, to agree how to accelerate testing and deployment of vaccines that could restrict the evolution of this epidemic. GSK in concert with these organizations is trying to compress years of work into less than one year.

While this work is important and must continue with full focus, simultaneously representatives of these same experts and groups could develop a sustained and coordinated global plan to equip communities around the world for the next infectious disease threat. Great progress could be made if we harness the same sense of urgency and partnership that’s being shown in the Ebola response.  To be prepared, a central point of coordination is needed in the US and globally to make the most efficient use of funding from public and private sectors and to explore new business models and policy frameworks. The WHO has been playing this role globally on the Ebola response.

Preparation also is going to require innovative approaches to research and funding for that research. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the US is testing such new approaches. For example, BARDA agreed last year to help fund several candidates in GSK’s antibacterial portfolio. Many other biopharmaceutical companies are moving away from this research although antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming increasingly common. This marks the first time that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with a private healthcare company to flexibly move funding around several potential medicines within a portfolio instead of a single medicine.

Creative solutions to scaling up responses to potential threats also will be needed if we want to be prepared. The Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at Texas A&M is one of three national centers that, through a public-private partnership with the U.S. government, is designated to lead pandemic preparedness activity. It is one of the facilities that has been asked by the US government to submit a proposal for making a potential medicine to treat Ebola. Within the CIADM, there is a framework under which companies such as GSK may be able to provide vaccines manufacturing technical expertise for more nimble and integrated development and manufacturing of treatments to address emerging diseases

Public health preparedness is a long-term endeavor that requires difficult decisions about the interventions needed and how they are prioritized. Representatives of the global health community need to agree on priorities, coordinate funding, lead the development of new business models and spread best practice policies that will prepare us better for the next health crisis.

Ebola is not the first or the last threat to global health.  Let’s learn from this epidemic and build on the best that we’ve seen – the global cooperation, coordination and prioritization. 

Donna Altenpohl
Vice President of Public Policy, GlaxoSmithKline

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Donna Altenpohl
Vice President of Public Policy, GlaxoSmithKline

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Donna Altenpohl is Vice President of Public Policy for GlaxoSmithKline, one of the nation’s leading pharmaceutical firms. In her role, she and her team are responsible for developing and executing the company’s public policy strategy, as well as evaluating the implications of health care reform to the life sciences industry.

Donna joined GSK in 2006 as an Executive Account Manager for the Employer Segment. In 2008, she was promoted to Account Vice President of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Team, which was enlarged to include HHS in 2009. Donna has deep experience in the health care industry. Prior to working for GSK, Donna spent 16 years at Cigna HealthCare, where she held a series of management level positions in marketing, sales, product development and strategic planning.

Donna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Colby College and is a graduate of the Transformational Leadership for Executives program, a GSK-sponsored developmental program at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She is based in Philadelphia and lives in Malvern, PA with her husband Bill and their three sons.

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What can be done across the health care community to best respond to infectious diseases like Ebola?

Ebola: Lesson learned for future response

Ebola is a virulent virus killing well over half of the people it infects.  This Ebola outbreak is the worst we’ve seen in recent history and caught West African countries, and the many other nations who love and support (including the U.S.), off guard.  So what can we do to better prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks?

A key factor in MAP International’s swift response to the outbreak in March, 2014 was the fact that we had extensive inventories of personal protection suits (PPEs) as well as appropriate medicines and supplies on hand and ready to deploy. USAID had entrusted MAP to store, prepare and distribute PPEs in preparation for emerging pandemic threats, like the avian flu, in our implementing USAID Deliver’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program for 6 years. From this experience we know the healthcare community can better prepare in the future by having stockpiles of PPEs, gloves, masks and goggles, medicines and supplies  ready for quick shipment and distribution. These items are key in quickly responding at the initial onset of an outbreak and save the lives of healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the spread of the virus.  It is very possible that if more of these items had been immediately available in West Africa, the worldwide response could have slowed the spread of Ebola considerably.  

What could have been done better by the health community this time around?  A large scale response should have been launched at the first sign Ebola was spreading, which was clear to MAP and its partners by March, 2014.  In future outbreaks, we must decisively respond to potential threats within factors present in the regions of origin to prevent the spread of a virus like Ebola and the encompass conditions which foster its expansion. Many parts of West Africa have porous borders i.e. people freely traveled from Guinea where Patient Zero’ was found to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and beyond.   When outbreaks occur we must have a clear response plan across multiple channels to allow NGOs who are already on the ground to mount a more efficient response.

Preparing for future outbreaks is easier said than done, as there are outside circumstances within affected countries that can unwittingly foster the expansion of the outbreak.  That said, the healthcare community and its many players have the training, experience, capacity and humanitarian mandate to more aggressively stem wide spread panic common to the Ebola outbreak.  People have fled hospitals, killed those infected, threatened those helping to provide treatment, and trumped available education and information - based prevention measures. This need for education extends from West African ministries of Health to a majority of Americans previously unaware of the Ebola virus and its deadly characteristics. But we must, as potential ramifications of failure to do so can be counted in 500,000 cases, each with a name, face and a future.

Mark Mosely
VP of Global Essential Medicines, Supplies and Services , Map International

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Mark Mosely
VP of Global Essential Medicines, Supplies and Services , Map International

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For two decades, Mark has worked to bring health and hope to those in need in +50 countries; from sustainable health development to disaster relief; from armed conflicts including Rwanda and Bosnia to 12 UN defined complex humanitarian emergencies such as Indonesia’s tsunami and Sudan’s Hunger Triangle. Serving 10 of those years at MAP in senior management positions, Mosely manages provision of donated and purchased medicines, logistics services, and supply chain / public health consulting to MAP and its partners ranging from UN World Health Organization to national ministry of health personnel, maximizing humanitarian impact of MAP and its network to +25 million people in +100 countries each year.

A native of Savannah, Georgia, Mosely earned an undergraduate degree from Mercer University, later working and training for seven years at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine/Program in Infectious Disease. Prior to joining MAP in 1992, he worked as a magazine journalist and photographer. Mosely lives in St. Simons Island, GA with his wife Linda.

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