WHO to review experimental Ebola treatment

The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that it will convene an ethical review of experimental treatment in the West African Ebola virus outbreak.

There are no registered medicines or vaccines against Ebola virus, but multiple experimental options are in development. Two health workers from Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization, were treated with experimental medicine. The treatment raised questions about whether medicine that has never been tested or shown to be safe in humans should be used in the outbreak.

Because there is a very limited supply of the medicine available, the treatment also raised the question of who should receive the experimental treatment.

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

WHO said that the gold standard for assessing new treatments involves a series of trials followed by expanded studies to determine effectiveness and the best way to use the medicine. The organization said that safety is always the main concern.

WHO plans to convene the panel this week.