WHO: Untested Ebola drugs can be used
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that untested drugs can be used to treat patients infected with the Ebola virus.
The WHO said it was ethical in light of the scale of the outbreak and high number of deaths – more than 1,000 people have died in West Africa.
The statement was made after its medical experts met in Switzerland on Monday to discuss the issue.
However, officials warned there were very limited supplies of potential treatments.
The WHO said where experimental treatments are used there must be informed consent and the results of the treatment collected and shared.
In a statement, it said: “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.”
However, the organization conceded there were still many questions to be answered including how data could be gathered effectively while the focus remained on providing good medical care.
It was also unclear where the funding for the treatment would come from.
Last week the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak was a global health emergency.
The move came as Liberia said it was getting an experimental drug, ZMapp, after requests to the US government.
The WHO said there were only 12 doses.
ZMapp has been used on two US aid workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who have shown signs of improvement, although it is not certain what role the medication played in this.
A Roman Catholic priest, infected with Ebola in Liberia, who died after returning home to Spain is also thought to have been given the drug.
However, the drug has only been tested on monkeys and has not yet been evaluated for safety in humans.
There is no cure for Ebola, which has infected at least 1,779 people since the outbreak was first reported in Guinea in February.
The Liberian government said it was aware of the risks associated with ZMapp, but the alternative was to allow many more people to die.
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