With the death toll rising and health organizations struggling to get a handle on the situation, the World Health Organization has recently approved the use of experimental drugs to those stricken by the current outbreak of the Ebola virus that has hit many West African Nations. The WHO held emergency meeting s over the last several days and came to the conclusion that the scope of the situation overrode the ethical concerns in regard to using experimental drugs that have yet to pass human trials.
With the drugs having yet to pass human trials, it is unknown if they will have a significant impact on the current fight against the Ebola virus. Another issue is the fact that the effect that these drugs will have on patients are little known and they are to be administered in a setting that lacks the controls of a laboratory testing environment.
One of the drugs that was at the forefront of this debate is ZMapp, which is produced at the Mapp Biopharmaceutical laboratory in the United States. This drug was used to treat missionaries from the United States and Spain and it has shown potential to be an effective remedy. However, the supply of the drug is limited and the drug’s producer claims that the supply has already been exhausted. The lab is in the process of trying to increase production of the drug in order to meet the demand.
Approximately 1,000 doses of the experimental drug ZMapp have already been sent to countries that are battling the disease and health officials are looking into the use of other experimental drugs. The Canadian government also plans to provide between 800 and 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine to be distributed through services provided by the WHO.
In the almost 40-year history of the Ebola virus, there have been 15 outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa and there is still no recognized treatment method. Researchers are currently working on a variety of experimental treatments, but the going is slow due to a lack of funding. The current outbreak has inspired some governments to increase research funding, but with only experimental drugs being available, this funding comes much too late for those suffering from the current outbreak.