WHO endorses use of untested Ebola drugs

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it has endorsed the use of experimental drugs to help treat victims of the Ebola virus, which more than 1,800 people have contracted in several countries in Africa.

“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,” the WHO said in a statement. 

A panel of agency officials reached a consensus on Monday after discussing the ethical implications of using these drugs.

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West Africa is experiencing “the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak” of Ebola in history, the international agency said.

The WHO said the use of these untested treatments on victims should be transparent as far as freedom of choice, confidentiality, informed consent and more. The agency said there is a also “moral obligation” to share all data collected about these treatments. 

The WHO’s decision comes after reports on Monday said all existing doses of the experimental drug ZMapp have been sent to West Africa. The drug was used to treat two U.S. citizens who became infected with the virus in Liberia. They are now being treated in the U.S. 

On Twitter Tuesday, the WHO said it doesn’t have any experimental medicine and does not deliver it. The agency said it also needs to further explore ethical criteria needed to prioritize the use of these experimental therapies and vaccines.