Liberia doctors to get ‘untested’ ebola medication

Liberia said it would treat two infected doctors with the scarce experimental ebola drug ZMapp, the first Africans to receive the treatment, while authorities in Spain said a priest had died of the disease.

Liberia  doctors to get ‘untested’   ebola medication

The death toll from the worst ever outbreak of the highly contagious disease has climbed to 1,013 since it was discovered in remote southeastern Guinea in March, according to the World Health Organisation.

It said ZMapp doses were very scarce, raising ethical questions of who should have priority.

Spanish authorities said a 75-year-old Spanish priest who contracted ebola in Liberia had died.

The government had announced on Sunday that Fr Miguel Pajares, the first European infected by the strain, would also be treated with ZMapp manufactured by California-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

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. His body will be cremated today to avoid any further public health risks.

ZMapp has already been administered to two US aid workers, who are now in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, after being medically evacuated and have shown some signs of improvement.

The virus — one of the deadliest diseases known to man — has spread to four African countries, infecting 1,848 people, according to the WHO. It has branded the outbreak an international health emergency.

The epidemic in one of the world’s poorest regions, where crumbling healthcare systems are unable to cope, has opened an ethical debate on the use of trial drugs on humans.

After a meeting with medical experts, the World Health Organisation declared it is ethical to use unproven ebola drugs and vaccines in the current outbreak in West Africa provided the right conditions are met.

Its statement, however, sidestepped the key questions of who should get the limited drugs and how that should be decided.

With medical staff lacking the equipment and training to tackle the first outbreak of ebola in West Africa, over 60 healthcare workers have died and dozens more been infected, severely hindering countries’ ability to cope with the disease.

Information Minister Lewis Brown said the Liberian government had received written consent from the two doctors — who he identified as Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor — for the treatment, which has not been fully tested in humans.

“The drug maker could not export… the drug without the approval of the FDA so our authorities approached the FDA and received specific approval for the treatment of these two doctors.”

He said the drug was expected to reach Liberia within the next 24 hours.

A spokesperson for the US Health and Human Services Department said US authorities had simply assisted in connecting the Liberian government with the drug’s manufacturer and followed procedures for the export of pharmaceuticals.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical said its supply of the drug has been exhausted, after the company provided doses to a West African nation, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal.

The Liberian presidency statement said the head of the WHO, Margaret Chan, had authorised the dispatch of additional doses of the experimental drug to Liberia, but Brown said it was not clear if this was true.

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