World Health Organization to Ethicists: Should We Use Experimental Ebola Drugs?
Treating two Americans with an untested drug for the deadly disease shifts thinking about ethics of use.
When American relief workers Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were offered and took an experimental treatment for Ebola last month, the event triggered a seismic shift in the largely behind-the-scenes debate over whether untested drugs should be used in the spreading outbreak in West Africa.
Until then, many experts felt it would be unethical to offer African Ebola patients drugs that had never been given to people, let alone tested for safety. (Related: "Promising Ebola Drugs Stuck in Lab Limbo as Outbreak Rages in Africa.")
The mere idea evoked memories of pharma giant Pfizer's disastrous clinical trial of a new antibiotic, trovafloxacin (Trovan), during a 1996 meningitis outbreak in northern Nigeria, or the plot of John le Carré's novel,