WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

WHO to convene ethical review of experimental treatment for Ebola

The World Health Organization will organize a panel of medical ethicists this week to explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

There is no registered medicine or vaccine against the virus, but there are several experimental options under development. The use of experimental medicine to treat two health workers from Samaritan's Purse has raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested and shown to be safe should be used to deal with the outbreak. Due to the limited amount of experimental medicine available, there is also the question of who should receive the treatment.

"We are in an unusual situation in this outbreak," Marie-Paule Kieny, the assistant director-general at the WHO, said. "We have 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."

The "gold standard" for assessing new medicine involves a series of human trials that begin small to make sure the medicine is safe to used. The studies then are expanded to more people to see how effective the medicine is and determine the best ways to use it.