The World Health Organization's panel on the ethics of experimental treatment in the Ebola outbreak has come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, ethical to offer untested, experimental drugs or vaccines to patients in West Africa, as long as the proper protocol is taken. The panel emphasized that any plan to distribute medications would require "informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community."
"Ebola outbreaks can be contained using available interventions like early detection and isolation, contact tracing and monitoring, and adherence to rigorous procedures of infection control," the panel said. "However, a specific treatment or vaccine would be a potent asset to counter the virus." Still, the panel emphasized that it is unlikely that any medication would have sufficient doses in the near future.
The panel was formed in response to the use of experimental Ebola drug ZMapp on two Americans infected with Ebola. Liberia has announced that it will treat two infected doctors with ZMapp, just as authorities announced that the 75-year-old Spanish missionary infected with Ebola has died. The missionary, Miguel Pajares, had allegedly received the experimental serum after the Spanish Health Ministry obtained it, although hospital officials could not confirm that he was actually administered the drug.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical has since said that its supply of ZMapp has been depleted.
Reuters has more on potential treatments:
GlaxoSmithKline and U.S.. scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases hope to start a clinical trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine as soon as next month, after promising test results in primates.
It would normally take many years to move such a vaccine through three phases of clinical testing, but some officials have suggested emergency procedures could be put in place to make it available in 201, assuming it works in the early test phase.
Another experimental vaccine from Johnson & Johnson's Crucell unit should enter Phase I clinical trials in late 2015 or early 2016, while Profectus Biosciences is also working with U.S. scientists on another pre-clinical vaccine.
The Ebola virus has now taken 1,013 lives and infected 1,848, according to the latest numbers from the WHO.
For more on the outbreak, see below:
- Has patient zero been identified?
- A village in Sierra Leone is "frozen by fear and death."
- The Nigerian city of Lagos is fighting "wicked lies" on Ebola myths.
- Flooding in Sierra Leone exacerbates the threat of the virus.
- Some worry about the economic impact of the disease.
- Bloomberg Businessweek's Charles Kenny argues that the public health system is broken.