WHO ethics expert panel unanimously concluded that it is ethical to offer unproven medications to fight deadly Ebola virus


After two American aid workers received ZMapp, a heated debate immediately swept across the globe with the most diametrically opposed opinions to the question of whether experimental medications and vaccines should be widely used in the affected regions to fight the Ebola virus. Hesitation, even resistance, was the response from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), which has the authority to grant permission “to use experimental treatments in the United States” and to export experimental treatments to foreign countries. Although lifting its full clinical hold, the agency still places a “partial hold” on ZMapp.

In response to an unprecedented extraordinary outbreak that claimed over 1,000 lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the situation a public health emergency of International Concern.

CDC: Chronology of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreaks (Click image to go to CDC webpage)


Facing the heightened need for prevention of a global pandemic, the WHO emergency consultation with ethics experts concluded that the use of unproven experimental medications and vaccines to fight deadly Ebola virus is necessary. The US Department of Health & Human services has set up three facilities, which actively partner with private industry to “quickly switch production lines to manufacture” in the event of natural outbreaks or bioterrorism. A strong commitment from the key policy making agencies, WHO, FDA, CDC, can facilitate increased production of and access to the experimental medications. Here in the US, we are blogging to encourage all public health professionals to advocate for the removal of the partial hold on the Ebola medications and instead creation of a faster review and approval process by the FDA.

One Response to “WHO ethics expert panel unanimously concluded that it is ethical to offer unproven medications to fight deadly Ebola virus”

  1. sseopaul Says:

    This is an extremely complicated and sad situation, that exemplifies the complexities of public health.

    I liked the video that displayed the opposing views about using an experimental drug under these circumstances. I think both made valid points, however, I do believe the male over simplified the situation and the potential for the locals to 1) not use the drug and 2) blame the drug for the deaths of their family/friends infected with the Ebola virus. However, I do agree with him (and the WHO) that in this particular situation, I believe the distribution of these experimental drugs are necessary. In this case I feel that the drugs cannot do additional harm and have the potential to provide some benefit so they should be used, however, as stated in the video complications will arise and their are ethical concerns, particularly about the vulnerability of the population, however, in this case, i think the potential benefit outweighs the concerns. I do wonder how you would convince locals to take the drug while explaining that it’s not a cure, it could potentially help.

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