Switzerland: WHO to convene ethical review of Ebola experimental drug

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - As demand for the Ebola experimental drug 'Zmapp' increases amid a ravaging Ebola crisis in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) is to convene a panel of medical ethicists to explore the use of experimental treatment in the Ebola outbreak.

Currently there is no registered medicine or vaccine against the virus, but there are several experimental options under development.

WHO said in a statement on Wednesday that the recent treatment of two US health workers from Samaritan’s Purse with experimental medicine had raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe in people should be used in the outbreak and, given the extremely limited amount of medicine available, if it is used, who should receive it.  

“We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak.  We have a disease with a high fatality rate without any proven treatment or vaccine,” says Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General at the WHO. "We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is.”

According to WHO, the gold standard for assessing new medicine involves a series of trials in humans, starting small to make sure the medicine is safe to use. Then, the studies are expanded to more people to see how effective it is, and how best to use it.

Though the drug given to the two American doctors who contracted the virus has not been licensed, Nigerian health authorities have already contacted the US to ask for access to the drug, as Africa's most populous nation records six confirmed Ebola cases and two deaths, one of them a Nigerian and the other a Liberian.

Ebola has killed 932 people most in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst hit by the disease.
-0- PANA SEG/MA 6Aug2014

06 august 2014 22:23:06

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