WHO Endorses Experimental Ebola Drugs
As of August 9, 2014, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected 1,848 people with 1,013 deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite measures to control the disease, which has been mainly circulating in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, new cases continue to arise. The new cases in combination with a lack of better treatment options have contributed to the increasing death toll.
After the death of 75-year-old Spanish Priest, Michael Pajares, who was repatriated after getting infected in Liberia, WHO announced that it would be endorsing the use of experimental drugs for treating Ebola even though the drugs have not passed clinical trials. The agency's ethics panel examined current data on the drugs and ruled that the drugs can be a "potent asset."
"In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention," members of the panel said in a statement reported by TIME.
One of the experimental drugs, ZMapp has already been given to two American health workers who are currently being treating at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA. The drug was also obtained for Pajares. However, whether or not he received it prior to his death is unclear. Prior to WHO's endorsement of the experimental drugs, the availability of ZMapp was limited to westerners, which angered a lot of people from West Africa.
"There's no reason to try this medicine on sick white people and to ignore blacks," said Marcel Guilavogui, a pharmacist in Conakry, Guinea reported by FOX News. "We understand that it's a drug that's being tested for the first time and could have negative side effects. But we have to try it in blacks too."
Aisha Dabo, a Senegalese-Gambian journalist who was tweeting using the hashtag "GiveUsTheSerum" stated, "We can't afford to be passive while many more die. That's why we raise our voice for the world to hear us."
Liberia announced that it would be receiving access to ZMapp after the U.S. Government helped put Liberia in contact with the drug's manufacture. Liberian officials also reported that they would be receiving an experimental drug from WHO. It has not been announced how the drugs would be sent to Liberia.
Doctors must tell patients all of the risks involved with receiving an experimental drug and receive permission before the doctors can administer treatment. WHO officials added that sharing the results from these treatments is a "moral obligation."