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Should experimental drugs be used in the Ebola outbreak?

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Risks and benefits of unproven treatments, as World Health Organization approves use in crisis.

Two Liberian doctors are set to become the first Africans to receive an experimental drug against the Ebola virus. The news comes as the World Health Organization concludes that it is ethical to use unproven treatments in the current outbreak in West Africa, the biggest outbreak of Ebola since records began, which has now killed 1013 people.

The debate about experimental drugs intensified after two US health workers infected with Ebola received the drug ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, California. That prompted some public-health leaders to argue that the drug should also be made available in Africa, where the majority of patients are dying. Others fear that this will provoke a backlash if the drugs cause side effects or are not effective.

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