News / Health

Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Carol Pearson

Without specific drugs or a vaccine for Ebola, the only thing doctors can do for those suffering from this disease is treat their symptoms and hope their bodies can fight the virus.  Ebola is killing at least half of those who get it.  So far, it has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people.

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa.  Zmapp, one of those drugs, have been given to six people: three Westerners and now, three African doctors.  One of the Westerners, a Catholic priest who was working in Liberia, has died.  Reports say the other five are improving.  It's still not known if the drug has helped.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the company that produced the drug, says all the available supplies are now exhausted.

Also available - about 1,000 doses of an experimental vaccine,  which may be used in West Africa.  Neither of these treatments has been tested on human beings.

In a Skype interview with VOA, Dr. Robert Klitzman, one of the co-founders of the Center for Bioethics at Columbia University in New York, said using these drugs raises ethical issues.  "Does it work? What should we tell people?  What if it makes people worse?  We want to make sure people understand that there are risks involved.  If we have a limited supply, we need to decide who should get the vaccine or medication and who should not."

Dr. Klitzman said in some sub-Saharan African languages, there's a word for "cure," but nothing that translates the word "experimental."  He says anyone who receives an experimental drug has to be told it might not cure them, and if it might make the situation worse.

Dr. Chandrakant Ruparelia is an infectious disease prevention expert at Jhpiego, an organization that trains health care workers in Liberia.  He said even if there were a large supply of these treatments, an untested drug has to be monitored. “That’s an experimental medication still," he said and that "It cannot be used on a large scale for every patient."

Dr. Klitzman says he agrees.  "We need to give it in a controlled way where we can see who got it, what happened, does it work, does it make them worse?"

Other vaccines and treatments are being developed, but are not likely to be used to treat Ebola patients, even in an experimental form, at least not for this unprecedented outbreak.


You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: raph from: cameroon
August 25, 2014 3:28 AM
Why not come back to God with fasting and prayer both Christians Muslims everyone included since I believe this ebola is not natural bcse its only God that will bring solution to this threat
may God help us

by: John
August 20, 2014 5:15 AM
Given the flourishing Boko Haram insurrection against polio vaccination, and the riots claiming that ebola doesn't exist or is produced by the whites, I do wonder how the Africans will react to being given these experimental drugs. My guess would be that they will blame the whites for experimenting on them, they will blame the whites for not having enough drugs to experiment on them all, they will blame the whites for those the drugs injure or kill, and, when a drug cures someone, they will blame the whites for not giving it to everyone sooner. Since they'll be getting the drugs for free, at least they can't blame the whites for making them pay.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs