Update as of 5:54 a.m. EDT: Liberia has backed off a claim it made earlier that U.S. President Barack Obama had authorized the dispatch of an experimental drug to help treat two patients infected with the Ebola virus in the West African nation, according to Associated Press.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, also denied earlier reports that it had authorized the use of ZMapp, the experimental Ebola drug, in Liberia, the report added.
"We were not involved in transferring the serum and we will not be involved in any future transfers of it," Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, said according to AP. "WHO doesn't have any role in handing out the serum or any other experimental medicines."
WHO is scheduled to hold a news conference later on Tuesday to talk about ethical issues surrounding the use of unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines, AP reported.
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The Liberian government announced Monday that it will get access to ZMapp, the Ebola experimental drug, to treat two local doctors who have contracted the virus in the West African nation. ZMapp, which is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., a San Diego firm, was never tested on humans before the current Ebola outbreak.
The two Liberian doctors will be first Africans to receive ZMapp, which has so far been used only to treat two Americans and a Spanish citizen. The use of the drug to treat only citizens from Western countries at a time when the Ebola virus has claimed more than 1,000 people in West Africa has attracted criticism and anger, according to the Associated Press, or AP. The approval from the U.S. for access to the experimental drug, very little quantities of which are currently available because it's not ready for large-scale commercial use, is in response to a request made by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday, asking for the drug to be used on infected Liberian doctors.
“The White House and the United States Food and Drug Administration have approved the request for sample doses of experimental Serum to treat Liberian doctors who are currently infected with the deadly Ebola virus disease,” the Liberian government said, in a statement Monday, adding: “The experimental drugs are to be brought in the country by a representative of the U.S. Government later this week.”
The statement from the Liberian government also said that Margaret Chan, executive director of the World Health Organization, has also approved shipping additional doses of the drug to treat the affected doctors.
“The U.S. Government assisted in connecting the Government of Liberia with the manufacturer,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement, according to AP, adding: “Since the drug was shipped for use outside the U.S., appropriate export procedures had to be followed.”
Of the people infected, nearly 40 percent are reportedly surviving the virus, AP reported. At least 1,013 people have died from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
“There's no reason to try this medicine on sick white people and to ignore blacks,” Marcel Guilavogui, a pharmacist in Conakry, Guinea, said according to AP, adding: “We understand that it's a drug that's being tested for the first time and could have negative side effects. But we have to try it in blacks too.”