Experimental drug provided to Dallas Ebola patient

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WASHINGTON — A North Carolina drugmaker is providing its experimental antiviral drug to a Dallas patient being treated for Ebola, an emergency step authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said Monday that their patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, is in stable condition and being treated with brincidofovir, an oral medicine developed by Chimerix Inc.

The Durham, North Carolina-based drugmaker said earlier that physicians sought FDA permission to use the company’s drug, which is in late-stage testing for several other types of viruses.

The FDA grants emergency access to unapproved drugs on a case-by-case basis, usually when a patient faces a life-threatening condition for which there are no alternatives. The agency has not approved any drugs or vaccines to safely and effectively treat Ebola.

Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas last Tuesday after recently arriving from Liberia.

Brincidofovir is an antiviral drug being tested against several common viruses, including one that infects patients undergoing bone marrow transplants. Chimerix is also developing the drug as a treatment against smallpox. Laboratory tests suggested it may also work against Ebola.

Two other experimental drugs developed specifically for Ebola have been used in American patients, though it’s unclear if they had any effect. The small supply of one drug, ZMapp, was exhausted after being used on a few patients. A second drug, TKM-Ebola from Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, has been used in at least one patient and is said to be in limited supply.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has consulted with U.S. hospitals about more than 100 potentially suspicious cases in recent months. More than a dozen were worrisome enough to merit Ebola blood tests. Only the Dallas patient had Ebola.

Federal officials say they are confident they can stay on top of any more cases that arrive.

BY MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer

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