WHO bioethics panel approves use of experimental ebola treatments

A panel of bioethicists and other experts convened by the World Health Organization said on Monday that in light the ongoing ebola outbreak in West Africa, it is ethical to use experimental treatments.

The panel said the particular circumstances of the outbreak necessitated the use of the experimental drugs, which have unknown side effects and efficacy rates.

The group determined that transparency in data sharing and other areas is critical to using the treatments. The panel also said that ethical criteria must guide the use of the experimental treatments, including transparency regarding all aspects of care and freedom of choice.

Other areas were identified as needing additional analyses, including ethical ways to gather data while still providing treatment and criteria for achieving fair distribution of treatments among countries, as well as prioritizing which treatments are to be used.

A report on the proceedings of the meeting will be available on Aug. 17.

More than 900 people have died so far from the current ebola outbreak, which is the most severe in history. Most of the cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Centers for Disease Control and other organizations have stepped up their response to the outbreak.