Liberia has said it will receive doses of an experimental Ebola drug to treat infected doctors in the West African country.
A statement, published on the Liberian presidency’s website on Monday, said the United States had approved a request from Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to ship the medicine, ZMapp, after a direct appeal to US President Barack Obama on Friday.
However, a spokesperson for the US Health and Human Services (HHS) Department said US authorities had simply assisted in connecting the Liberian government with the drug’s manufacturer.
“Since the drug was shipped for use outside the US, appropriate export procedures had to be followed,” the HHS spokesperson said, adding the drug company had worked directly with the Liberian government.
The Liberian statement said the head of the WHO, Margaret Chan, had authorised the dispatch of additional doses of the experimental drug to Liberia to support the treatment of affected doctors. Those doses will be delivered by a WHO expert this week.
A WHO spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Lewis Brown, Liberian information minister, told the Reuters news agency that it was not clear how many doses of the drug had been sent, but it could be in Monrovia within the next 48 hours.
The company said in a statement on Monday that its supply had been exhausted.
ZMapp, produced by California-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has already been used to treat two US aid workers and a Spanish priest infected with Ebola.
Global health emergency
The death toll from the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola has climbed to 1,013 people, according to figures on Monday from the World Health Organisation, which has branded the outbreak an international health emergency.
The WHO has said the epidemic will likely continue for months as the region’s healthcare systems struggle to cope and has appealed urgently for funding and emergency medical staff.
A WHO medical ethics committee had discussed on Monday the use of experimental drugs to tackle the world’s worst outbreak of the deadly virus. It is due to announce its findings on Tuesday.
Aside from the ethics of using experimental drugs in humans, the committee was also due to consider who should receive priority for the limited supplies of the drugs.