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Health News Headlines: IU Professor Weighs In On Experimental Treatment For Ebola


“The West African Ebola outbreak continues, as the World Health Organization reports nearly 1,000 deaths as of the fourth of August. More are anticipated as new cases of the virus are being reported in Nigeria. Meanwhile, two American health care workers infected with Ebola were safely transported to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, where both seem to be improving. Their progress may be due in part to an experimental drug called ZMapp that is derived from Tobacco leaves but has not been tested on humans,” reports JillDitmire.

“The idea is that it could be fairly quickly replicated and grown if it is shown to be effective. But at this point, it’s in the very early stages of development…”

Ditmire: That’s Ross Silverman, professor of health policy and public health law and Indiana University.

Silverman: Let’s be clear this is not an approved treatment. But in past cases, where there were a limited number of flu vaccines, for example, prioritizing first-line providers in those circumstances so that they can treat as many possible people is something that is morally justifiable.

Ditmire: Silverman doubts there will be further use of the drug anytime soon.

Silverman: It’s inappropriate for us to just start sending this out to anyone who asks for it at this point, because we don’t have any idea if this would help or possibly harm them. There really should not be absent knowledge of whether this is safe or effective any kind of large-scale human trials at this time. We need to make sure we have a strong safety process through the FDA that helps us to understand when medications or vaccines are showing effectiveness and how much we should be giving.

Ditmire: The World Health Organization is convening a meeting of medical ethicists to examine what it calls the responsible thing to do about any supplies of ZMapp that eventually could become available.