The extraordinary spread of Ebola in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – and the spillover into the highly populated country of Nigeria – has led to numerous calls for the use of untested, experimental drugs on humans in the region. We’ve already seen one drug – ZMapp – used on a handful of patients.
Last week the World Health Organization convened an ethics committee to consider the idea (see WHO Statement: Ethical Use Of Experimental Drugs In Ebola Outbreak) and announced that – under certain conditions – such use would be ethical.
The intent was to allow a handful drugs and vaccines currently under investigation for the treatment of Ebola - those with at least some reasonable expectation of being effective - to be given a “compassionate use” waiver so they could be used outside of a clinical trial.
On Friday, in an attempt to dial back some of the excessive media hype over what are unproven and untested drugs, we saw the WHO Warn Of `Unrealistic Expectations’ Over Experimental Ebola Drugs.
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, almost immediately we began to see reports of everything from herbal remedies to homeopathic `cures’ to `Nano Silver’ ( even holy water) being offered as potential treatments or preventatives for Ebola.
Last week the FDA warned consumers about fraudulent Ebola treatment products and the WHO began to aggressively discount these `cures’ on their twitter account.
While some of these `cures’ are likely harmless in and of themselves, they could lull some into believing they are being `protected’ against the disease when they are not, or to avoid medical care which could actually make a difference in their outcomes. Others – like the `salt water cure’ - have already claimed lives, leading the WHO to tweet:
Yesterday the WHO published the full report from the Ethics committee on the use of Experimental drugs in this Ebola outbreak, which you can access at the link below:
Report of an advisory panel to WHO
Number of pages: 10
Publication date: 2014
WHO reference number: WHO/HIS/KER/GHE/14.1
West Africa is experiencing the largest, most severe, most complex outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history. On 11 August 2014, WHO convened a consultation to consider and assess the ethical implications for clinical decision-making of use of unregistered interventions that have shown promising results in the laboratory and in animal models but that have not yet been evaluated for safety and efficacy in humans.