News / Health

WHO Endorses Experimental Drugs for Ebola Patients

FILE - Health workers prescreen people for the deadly Ebola virus before they enter the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone.
FILE - Health workers prescreen people for the deadly Ebola virus before they enter the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone.
VOA News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has given a green light for the use of unproven drugs to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in four West African countries.  

A panel of specialists agreed it is ethical to offer these treatments to try to curb the Ebola epidemic, which is the largest ever seen.  

There have been a number of Ebola outbreaks in Eastern and Central Africa over the past 40 years. The WHO was able to stop those outbreaks by identifying and isolating all cases of the disease, tracing those who have come in contact with infected individuals and providing protective covering to health care workers.

But officials from the U.N. health agency acknowledge what has worked in the past is not working now. They say the outbreak in four West African countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria - continues to spread and appears unstoppable.

  • A hearse carries the coffin of Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, 75, the first European infected by a strain of Ebola, Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 12, 2014.
  • Ivory Coast banned air travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone on August 11. In this photo, people walk past health workers wearing protective masks and gloves at the Felix Houphouet Boigny international airport in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Aug. 12, 2014.
  • This high level isolation unit would be used if it becomes necessary to treat patients suffering from Ebola, at The Royal Free Hospital, in London, Aug. 12, 2014.
  • Senior Matron Breda Athan demonstrates how to get into the protective suit, as she poses for the cameras. The suit would be used if it becomes necessary to treat patients suffering from Ebola, at The Royal Free Hospital in London, Aug. 12, 2014.
  • A man's temperature is measured before he is allowed into a business center, as fear of the deadly Ebola virus spreads through the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 9, 2014.
  • Health workers prescreen people for the deadly Ebola virus before they enter the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, August 9, 2014.
  • Worshippers leaving a church after prayers concerning the deadly Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 9, 2014.
  • Workers inside a call center, where people can phone to state their concerns about the Ebola virus, in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 9, 2014.
  • Volunteers prepare basic supplies, donated to the Ebola treatment center by American donors, at the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, Aug. 9, 2014.
  • A large billboard promotes the washing of hands to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 9, 2014.

That's why the panel of experts who convened Monday unanimously agreed it is ethical to offer unproven medicines as potential treatments, according to WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny.
 
“The magnitude and the spread of the outbreak makes it that we do not have enough people to use and to rely only, if I may say, on what has traditionally worked if we want to stop the outbreak as quickly as possible," Kieny said. "So, this is why in this particular circumstances the ethicists have felt that it was ethical to propose these treatments and these vaccines, although they have not been registered yet.”

West African health authorities report that more than 1,800 people have come down with Ebola, and more than 1,000 have died.  There is no cure for this disease, which can kill up to 90 percent of its victims, and is spread through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.

Researchers have found some potential treatments and vaccines that could help bring Ebola under control.  But, while a handful of these drugs have shown positive results in monkeys, they have not been clinically tested in humans to see whether they are safe and effective.

The health of two American aid workers who got infected with Ebola in Liberia has improved since they were treated with an experimental drug known as Zmapp. This has raised hopes of other successful treatments by using this and other unproven drugs.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the international community to respond to the shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment needed to fight the Ebola disease raging in West Africa.

At a news conference Tuesday, Ban said an organized global response is key to controlling the worst-ever outbreak of the virus. He announced he has appointed U.N. public health expert David Nabarro to coordinate the United Nations effort to fight Ebola.

The U.N. chief also called on the international community to avoid "panic and fear," saying the Ebola virus can be prevented.

While the WHO has given the go-ahead for the use of untested treatments and vaccines, Kieny says certain ethical criteria must guide their use.  These include transparency of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality and community involvement.
 
“The panel also emphasized that because we know so little about safety and efficacy in humans, whenever these treatments are provided for what we call compassionate use, which means it is defined as access to an unapproved drug outside of a clinical trial, then there is a moral obligation to collect and share all data generated,” Kieny said.  

The World Health Organization says it will push for the speedy start of clinical trials for Ebola drugs that look promising.  It notes that trials for two vaccine candidates might begin by the end of September and information regarding their safety could be available by the end of the year.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Aaron F. Wuokolo from: Liberia
August 12, 2014 11:33 PM
The only option Liberia has now is to accept the use of the untested zmapp dregs which has shown positives sign in the two America doctors. The situation in Liberia is getting wrost on a daily basis as the virus continue to spread to other counties in Liberia. We pray and hope that zmapp works to save our people.

by: meanbill from: USA
August 12, 2014 1:12 PM
TRUTH BE TOLD... I do remember when the World Health Organization (WHO) told the world, there was no chance of this (EBOLA) outbreak in Africa ever becoming a worldwide epidemic, (and), they said the only way a person could contract (EBOLA) was if a came into contact with a contaminated (EBOLA) persons body fluids, (but), viruses and diseases have a habit of changing themselves, (and), forming new ways to spread their viruses and diseases to others.... BEWARE, the (EBOLA) virus is just a step away, from becoming an uncontrollable worldwide epidemic.... (flesh eating ZOMBIES)?

by: yataro from: Japan
August 12, 2014 9:11 AM
I think this decision is right, because it is the only way that might be effective to the disease. They haven't make sure that the medicine is safety for human,so it should be done.But there are not much time to do it, and a lot of people would die.
The problem of this article is that few African people can get the medicine. We all should help to distribute the medicine to people in Africa.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs