UPDATE 2-WHO backs use of experimental Ebola drugs in West Africa outbreak

Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:45am EDT
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* Ethics panel cautions supplies will be limited

* Medics need "informed consent, community involvement"

* Vaccine testing usually takes years (Updates throughout with quotes, details, background)

By Kate Kelland and Stephanie Nebehay

LONDON/GENEVA, Aug 12 (Reuters) - It is ethical to offer unproven drugs or vaccines to people infected or at risk in West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak, a World Health Organisation panel of medical ethics experts ruled on Tuesday, but cautioned supplies will be limited.

The panel said any provision of experimental Ebola medicines would require "informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community".

The drugs should also be properly tested in the best possible clinical trials, it said.

The West Africa Ebola virus epidemic - the world's largest and most deadly so far - has killed at least 1,013 of the more than 1,848 people it has infected in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The WHO has declared it an international health emergency.

"Ebola outbreaks can be contained using available interventions like early detection and isolation, contact tracing and monitoring, and adherence to rigorous procedures of infection control," the panel said. "However, a specific treatment or vaccine would be a potent asset to counter the virus."   Continued...