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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs