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UN: It’s ethical to try untested Ebola medicines

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MADRID (AP) — The World Health Organization said it’s ethical to use unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines in the outbreak in West Africa provided the right conditions are met.

The U.N. agency issued the statement Tuesday after holding a teleconference with experts Monday to discuss the issue.

In the biggest-ever outbreak of Ebola, two Americans have gotten an experimental Ebola treatment never tested in humans and two more treatments were reportedly on their way to treat two Liberia doctors. The developments have raised ethical questions about whether it’s right to use untested treatments in people sickened by a disease that has no licensed treatment.

WHO said Tuesday that people can ethically receive such treatments but sidestepped the questions of who should get the limited drugs and how that should be decided.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A Spanish missionary priest being treated for Ebola died Tuesday in a Madrid hospital amid a worldwide ethical debate over who should get an experimental Ebola drug.

Pajares, 75, died Tuesday at Carlos III Hospital, the hospital and his order said. The hospital would not confirm that he had been treated with the drug, but his order and Spain’s Health Ministry said earlier that he would be.

He is one of only three Ebola patients thought to have received the experimental treatment. The others are two Americans evacuated to Atlanta. The vast majority of those sickened by the virus have been Africans.

After convening a one-day expert meeting on Monday on whether it’s ethical to use experimental treatments and vaccines in an ongoing outbreak, WHO announced Tuesday that its panel decided using treatments this way is OK.

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,” the agency said in a statement.

Still, the panel sidestepped the question of who should get such experimental treatments or vaccines. The panel said “more detailed analysis and discussion” are needed to decide how to achieve fair distribution in communities and among countries, since there is an extremely limited supply of the experimental drugs and vaccines.

WHO says 1,013 people have died so far in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and authorities have recorded 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the killer virus. The virus was detected in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and possibly Nigeria.

Pajares had been treating people with Ebola at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital in Liberia when he became ill, and was evacuated to Spain on Thursday. He worked for the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Spain-based Catholic humanitarian group that runs hospitals around the world.

On Tuesday, the U.N. health agency denied reports from Liberia that it had authorized the experimental Ebola drug for that hard-hit nation.

“We were not involved in transferring the serum and we will not be involved in any future transfers of it,” said Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman. “WHO doesn’t have any role in handing out the serum or any other experimental medicines.”

After convening a one-day expert meeting on Monday on whether it’s ethical to use experimental treatments and vaccines in an ongoing outbreak, WHO announced Tuesday that its panel decided using treatments this way would be ethical.

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,” the agency said in a statement.

Still, the panel sidestepped the question of who should get such experimental treatments or vaccines. The panel said “more detailed analysis and discussion” are needed to decide how to achieve fair distribution in communities and among countries, since there is an extremely limited supply of the experimental drugs and vaccines.

Liberia also backed away from its earlier claim that President Barack Obama had approved the use of experimental Ebola drugs for two Liberian doctors.

In a statement Tuesday, a U.K.-based public relations firm representing the Liberian government said the experimental Ebola treatment would be arriving within the next 48 hours.

“The two doctors gave their consent, themselves being medical professionals, for the drug to be administered,” the statement said. “The drugmaker has agreed to supply a sufficient amount of this drug only for these two patients.”

Also Tuesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended all travel by executive branch officials for one month. She also ordered those already abroad to return home within a week “or be considered as abandoning their jobs,” according to a statement from her press secretary.

Most airlines flying in and out of the Liberian capital of Monrovia have suspended flights amid the unprecedented health crisis.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.

UN: It’s ethical to try untested Ebola medicines

KDWN

MADRID (AP) — The World Health Organization said it’s ethical to use unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines in the outbreak in West Africa provided the right conditions are met.

The U.N. agency issued the statement Tuesday after holding a teleconference with experts Monday to discuss the issue.

In the biggest-ever outbreak of Ebola, two Americans have gotten an experimental Ebola treatment never tested in humans and two more treatments were reportedly on their way to treat two Liberia doctors. The developments have raised ethical questions about whether it’s right to use untested treatments in people sickened by a disease that has no licensed treatment.

WHO said Tuesday that people can ethically receive such treatments but sidestepped the questions of who should get the limited drugs and how that should be decided.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A Spanish missionary priest being treated for Ebola died Tuesday in a Madrid hospital amid a worldwide ethical debate over who should get an experimental Ebola drug.

Pajares, 75, died Tuesday at Carlos III Hospital, the hospital and his order said. The hospital would not confirm that he had been treated with the drug, but his order and Spain’s Health Ministry said earlier that he would be.

He is one of only three Ebola patients thought to have received the experimental treatment. The others are two Americans evacuated to Atlanta. The vast majority of those sickened by the virus have been Africans.

After convening a one-day expert meeting on Monday on whether it’s ethical to use experimental treatments and vaccines in an ongoing outbreak, WHO announced Tuesday that its panel decided using treatments this way is OK.

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,” the agency said in a statement.

Still, the panel sidestepped the question of who should get such experimental treatments or vaccines. The panel said “more detailed analysis and discussion” are needed to decide how to achieve fair distribution in communities and among countries, since there is an extremely limited supply of the experimental drugs and vaccines.

WHO says 1,013 people have died so far in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and authorities have recorded 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the killer virus. The virus was detected in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and possibly Nigeria.

Pajares had been treating people with Ebola at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital in Liberia when he became ill, and was evacuated to Spain on Thursday. He worked for the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Spain-based Catholic humanitarian group that runs hospitals around the world.

On Tuesday, the U.N. health agency denied reports from Liberia that it had authorized the experimental Ebola drug for that hard-hit nation.

“We were not involved in transferring the serum and we will not be involved in any future transfers of it,” said Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman. “WHO doesn’t have any role in handing out the serum or any other experimental medicines.”

After convening a one-day expert meeting on Monday on whether it’s ethical to use experimental treatments and vaccines in an ongoing outbreak, WHO announced Tuesday that its panel decided using treatments this way would be ethical.

“In the particular circumstances of this outbreak and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention,” the agency said in a statement.

Still, the panel sidestepped the question of who should get such experimental treatments or vaccines. The panel said “more detailed analysis and discussion” are needed to decide how to achieve fair distribution in communities and among countries, since there is an extremely limited supply of the experimental drugs and vaccines.

Liberia also backed away from its earlier claim that President Barack Obama had approved the use of experimental Ebola drugs for two Liberian doctors.

In a statement Tuesday, a U.K.-based public relations firm representing the Liberian government said the experimental Ebola treatment would be arriving within the next 48 hours.

“The two doctors gave their consent, themselves being medical professionals, for the drug to be administered,” the statement said. “The drugmaker has agreed to supply a sufficient amount of this drug only for these two patients.”

Also Tuesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended all travel by executive branch officials for one month. She also ordered those already abroad to return home within a week “or be considered as abandoning their jobs,” according to a statement from her press secretary.

Most airlines flying in and out of the Liberian capital of Monrovia have suspended flights amid the unprecedented health crisis.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.