World Health Organization Endorses Untested Drugs To Fight Ebola

A panel of medical ethicists within the World Heatlh Organization (WHO) has endorsed the use of untested drugs in order to combat the emerging Ebola virus outbreak, CNN is reporting.

As the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in Africa has climbed over 1,000, the WHO panel concluded that using untested vaccines and treatments is better than doing nothing at all. In a statement posted on its website, WHO concluded that:

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”

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An experimental drug known as ZMapp, manufactured by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has shown some promise in treating Ebola victims. Two American medical missionaries – Dr. Kent Brantly and nurse Nancy Writebol – have received the drug and are improving (see this Inquisitr article). A third patient – Spanish priest Miguel Pajares – received the drug and has since died.

Unfortunately, only a few hundred doses of ZMapp have ever existed at any one time, and they’ve all been used up. The manufacturing process can take months, according to Bloomberg. The drug’s manufacturer is working with the U.S. government, and its partners, to ramp up production of the drug.

The fact that ZMapp has only been used on white people from wealthy, First-World nations has not gone unnoticed.

According to CNN writer Harriet Washington:

“Because another method of determining who gets medications is at work here — the drearily familiar stratification of access to a drug based on economic resources and being a Westerner rather than a resident of the global South.”

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Marcel Guilavogui, a pharmacist in Guinea, was even more direct, telling Yahoo News:

“There’s no reason to try this medicine on sick white people and to ignore blacks. We understand that it’s a drug that’s being tested for the first time and that could have negative side effects. But we have to try it in blacks too.”

Many have taken to Twitter to put pressure on Western governments to give the drug to those who need it the most, using the hashtag #GiveUsTheSerum.

Do you believe it’s ethical to give an untested drug to an Ebola patient? Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Images courtesy of infobil.bilkent.edu.tr and Bing]

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