Nigeria Requests ICN’s Ribavirin to Combat Lassa Fever Outbreak

ICN Pharmaceuticals has answered an emergency request to ship its antiviral drug ribavirin to Nigeria to combat an apparent outbreak of African Lassa fever, the Costa Mesa-based pharmaceutical company said Tuesday.

According to ICN, the request came from the Ministry of Health in Nigeria and was directed to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

The recent outbreak has claimed several lives, according to the company. Lassa fever is caused by a virus and is characterized in its latter stages by vomiting, internal bleeding and high fever.

Ribavirin, which is made by ICN, “is the only drug or compound that works against Lassa fever,” said Jack Sholl, ICN’s vice president, public relations.


ICN has shipped about $100,000 worth of ribavirin to the Centers for Disease Control. The drug is to be taken from Atlanta to several sites in Nigeria, according to ICN.

Ribavirin has been authorized for marketing in the United States under the trade name Virazole by ICN since 1986 to treat hospitalized infants with respiratory tract infections. The drug first was reported to be effective against Lassa fever in a study by the CDC published 3 years ago in a professional journal, the company said.