WHO Allowing Experimental Ebola Drugs In West Africa

The World Health Organization said it will permit shipments of the unlicensed ZMapp drug to help fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

WHO Allowing Experimental Ebola Drugs In West Africa
European Commission DG ECHO / CC BY ND 2.0

At least 1,000 people have died from the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Now, the World Health Organization is taking a drastic and controversial measure to try and contain it.

Tuesday, WHO authorized shipments of all remaining doses of the unlicensed ZMapp drug and other experimental Ebola-fighting drugs to help thwart the growing epidemic. (Video via CBS)

The drug — produced by MAPP Biopharmaceutical — has not gone through any clinical trials and has not received FDA approval, though it's been successful in testing on monkeys.

It's also the same experimental serum recently given to the two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly disease while fighting against it in Liberia. 

CNN said those two, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, both recovered significantly right after taking the serum.

According to The Guardian, WHO approved ZMapp's use following the death of a 75-year-old Spanish missionary priest in Liberia who was given drug before he died.

The decision to permit unlicensed drugs has obviously started a huge ethical debate in the medical community. But WHO said in a statement the push to approve them is warranted because the outbreak in West Africa has become so severe.

"There was unanimous agreement that there is a moral duty to also evaluate these interventions ... in the best possible clinical trials under the circumstances in order to definitively prove their safety and efficacy or provide evidence to stop their utilization."

The shipments of the ZMapp drug to West Africa will deplete the company's entire supply though there are ongoing efforts to ramp up production. In the meantime, are there any other options in the works?

CBS points to Canadian drug-maker Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation

The FDA recently released a hold on its ebola-fighting drug and, though it's too early in the experimental phase and "has yet to be proven as safe and effective," the FDA has essentially paved the way for its use in Africa as well.