Desperate that his patients were dying from Ebola and running out of options, Dr. Gobee Logan from Liberia decided to try an HIV drug. Surprisingly, the treatment seemed to have some success.
The drug Dr. Logan gave his patients is known as lamivudine. He treated 15 Ebola patients with the drug, of which 13 survived. That is just a 7% mortality rate. Compare that to 70% of Ebola victims dying from the disease in West Africa. The idea to try the drug came from his reading of scientific studies and learning that HIV and Ebola have similarities in the way the replicate.
“Ebola is a brainchild of HIV,” he told CNN. “It’s a destructive strain of HIV.”
Dr. Logan’s Ebola center is in Tubmanburg. Four of his patients are already recovering nicely, even able to walk. However, they are still quarantined and have to be separated from the others. The thirteen surviving patients took lamivudine in the first five days since getting sick. The other two patients who died took the medicine between days five and eight.
“My stomach was hurting; I was feeling weak; I was vomiting. They gave me medicine, and I’m feeling fine. We take it, and we can eat, we’re feeling fine in our bodies,” 23-year-old survivor, Elizabeth Kundu, told CNN.
“I’m sure that when [patients] present early, this medicine can help,” Logan said to CNN about his experiment. “I’ve proven it right in my center.”
Dr. Logan knows the side effects or lamivudine are nasty, causing liver and other health issues, but he says the risks have to be taken since Ebola became so disastrous.
He is also aware of the fact that American scientists are going to contradict him and say they need to investigate further to prove the drug’s effectiveness. Such an investigation would require taking a large patient population, splitting them in two groups, and giving one group lamivudine and the other a placebo.
“Our people are dying and you’re taking about studies? It’s a matter of doing all that I can do as a doctor to save some people’s lives,” Logan said.
Logan’s approach was congratulated by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who says it has theoretical merits. As a nucleocide analog, lamivudine and other drugs in the same class are being studied.