Geneva, Aug 7: WHO on Wednesday said it will convene a panel of medical ethicists early next week to explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The UN organisation said currently there was no registered medicine or vaccine against the virus, but there were several experimental options under development, xinhua reported.
According to WHO, the recent treatment of two health workers from Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organisation which provides medical helps to the needy, with experimental medicine has raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested should be used and, given the extremely limited amount of medicine available, if it is used, who should receive it.
“We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak,” Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General said in a statement, referring to Ebola as a disease with a high fatality rate without any proven treatment or vaccine. “We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is,” she added.
The standard for assessing new medicine involves a series of trials in humans, starting small to make sure the medicine is safe to use. Then the studies are expanded to more people to see how effective it is, and how best to use it. As of Aug 4, the cumulative number of cases attributed to Ebola virus disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone stands at 1,711, including 932 deaths.