Ethics pondered over experimental Ebola drug, two American patients improving

By Kyle Johnson,

After the discovery that there was an experimental Ebola drug, some have wondered why it hasn't been mentioned before now, while the medical community ponders the ethical quandary of making it available.

The drug, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, was made available to the two American health care workers who contracted the virus while helping out in Africa, but they are the first humans to take the it.

Before now, ZMapp had yet to be tested on human subjects as the drug is still in an early testing period, Financial Times reports.

The two appear to be recovering, but no one knows if the drug is the reason, or if they are just among the 45 percent who are able to survive Ebola.

Since the drug is still in an early testing period the World Health Organization has decided to bring together a panel to investigate the ethics of trying to provide the drug for a much larger population in Africa.

"We are in an unusual situation," Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director-general, 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... the responsible thing to do."

"We don't even know if it works," Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Instituted of Health said, according to The Associated Press.

Another problem is whether enough of the drug could be manufactured to help West Africa, even if the drug is proven to be helpful and not harmful. The process involves getting Ebola antibodies from lab mice and then growing them in tobacco plants.

Fauci notes that the process is "painfully slow" and only a "modest amount" could be produced over a three month period.

Some question why the drug was not even mentioned until recently.

"If the Americans had this serum all the time," Winston Ojukutu Macauley, a Sierra Leone social commentator, wondered, "why didn't they send it to us Africans to help save lives?"

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