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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs