WHO: Untested Ebola Drugs Are 'Ethical'

Says such meds are needed to fight virus in hard-hit areas

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 12, 2014 7:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – To combat "the largest, most severe, and most complex outbreak of [the] Ebola virus disease in history," the World Health Organization today gave the green light to use untested drugs. Despite questions about skipping the standard approval process, "it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention" under the umbrella of "compassionate use," WHO says in a statement. The FDA has given its OK for sample doses of the experimental drug ZMapp to be shipped to Liberia for use by doctors who have been afflicted with Ebola, reports CNN.

While the AP notes that two infected Americans have appeared to respond well to ZMapp, a Spanish priest who also received the drug died today in Madrid, reports the BBC. But while some medical ethicists grapple with conundrums such as those documented by Vox.com, at least a few noted Ebola experts—including one who co-discovered the virus in 1976—tell the Los Angeles Times that "dire circumstances call for a more robust international response" and that access to drugs such as ZMapp should be given to African nations fighting the disease. A group set up by the Obama administration is also in the works to review information about the deadly virus and recommend whether and how to set policy for using untested drugs, reports Reuters.

In this photo taken Aug. 9, 2014,  health workers wear protective clothing and equipment out of fear for the deadly Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone.
In this photo taken Aug. 9, 2014, health workers wear protective clothing and equipment out of fear for the deadly Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone.   (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of WHO, speaks in Geneva, Switzerland on Aug. 12, 2014, about exploring experimental treatment in the Ebola outbreak.
Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of WHO, speaks in Geneva, Switzerland on Aug. 12, 2014, about exploring experimental treatment in the Ebola outbreak.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, a health worker prepares to examine patients for Ebola inside a screening tent in Kenema, Sierra Leone.
In this photo taken Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, a health worker prepares to examine patients for Ebola inside a screening tent in Kenema, Sierra Leone.   (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, workers transfer Miguel Pajares, a Spanish priest who was infected with Ebola, to an ambulance near Madrid. Pajares died today, despite being treated with ZMapp.
In this Aug. 7, 2014, file photo, workers transfer Miguel Pajares, a Spanish priest who was infected with Ebola, to an ambulance near Madrid. Pajares died today, despite being treated with ZMapp.   (AP Photo/Spanish Defense Ministry, File)
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