The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently permitted an American corporation to donate an experimental medication to extremely unfortunate people — two American foreign aid workers and one Spanish missionary priest followed by three Liberian health care workers — who contracted Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) while caring for EVD patients in West Africa. The medication, called ZMappTM, is manufactured by San Diego-based biotech company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Incorporated. This medication is unproven, but infectious disease experts and patients alike hope treatment outcomes are as favorable as the results of soma therapy, as described by Mustapha Mond in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World,

 And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday … .

It appears that the FDA utilized its “compassionate use” process to make ZMappTM available to the relevant patients. Ethical questions about this decision immediately arose, particularly regarding the inequity in access to novel treatments between white non-Africans and black Africans who constitute the vast majority of EVD victims. These ethical issues deserve an anarcholibertarian exploration.

 

Anarcholibertarian take #1: The FDA’s decision should be simultaneously applauded and mocked. Applause is appropriate because this decision fundamentally eliminates an instance of State aggression, in which the American State was preventing, via regulatory madness, the voluntary transfer of a scarce resource from a willing supplier (Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc.) to willing recipients (the relevant Ebola victims). Mockery is also appropriate, however, for, as has been extensively documented, the FDA regulatory process itself — see the fdareview.org website — prevents and/or delays voluntary transactions between other willing sellers and other willing buyers with other diseases (especially metastatic cancer) that are even more life-threatening than EVD.

 

Anarcholibertarian take #2: Why would the FDA (the American State) make an exception to its usually Kafkaesque approval process for this particular experimental Ebola medication? The first paragraph of the ZMappTM Information Sheet at the Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. website supplies an intriguing clue:

ZMappTM is the result of a collaboration between Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. and LeafBio (San Diego, CA), Defyrus Inc. (Toronto, Canada), the U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Hmmm. So it turns out the American State has a financial interest in the success of ZMappTM. In other words, fascism/corporatism/crony capitalism is a possible motivating factor.

 

Anarcholibertarian take #3: There have been 27 known outbreaks of EVD since 1976 (approximately 1 outbreak every 1.4 years). Since no proven treatment or vaccine for EVD exists, supportive care is the current standard therapy. Alas, the typical fatality rate for an outbreak ranges from fifty percent to ninety percent. Thus, any potential medical therapy — proven or unproven — is in high demand during the nearly annual EVD crisis. It is laudable that the World Health Organization (WHO), the health agency of the United Nations, quickly followed the FDA’s lead by declaring that West African EVD patients can ethically be treated with experimental treatments or vaccines that have not yet been tested on humans. Yet, like the FDA, the WHO promulgates a destructive regulatory regime (see the International Health Regulations, which became a binding international legal instrument in June 2007) that hampers genuine medical innovation to address deadly infectious diseases like EVD.

 

Anarcholibertarian take #4: A smattering of mainstream bioethicists oppose making experimental treatments/vaccines available for EVD patients because they fear that white rich people will enjoy preferential access as compared to non-white poor people. It never seems to occur to these neoabolitionists that non-white poor people can pool scarce resources (e,g, mutual aid societies) and outbid rich white people for the relevant access. This is what we anarcholibertarians commonly refer to as a free market.

 

Anarcholibertarian take #5: A handful of mainstream bioethicists recommend making experimental EBV treatments/vaccines available only to health care workers.   It is also distressing to note that such “bioethicists” purposely favor the privileged (health care workers are disproportionately white and rich) as a matter of principle.   I also wish to introduce these neoelitists to a free market.

 

In the final analysis, eliminating prohibition of the use of untested treatments/vaccines by any humans infected with EVD might be the most ethical decision made by the FDA (the American State) and the WHO in my lifetime.