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Spain gets rare Ebola drug to treat stricken priest

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 6:42 p.m.

A Spanish priest has received one of the world's few doses of an experimental Ebola drug, raising ethical questions about how to allocate scarce medicines for a fatal disease at a time when the virus has infected at least 1,779 people in West Africa.

The drug, ZMapp, is a mixture of three antibodies engineered to recognize Ebola and bind to infected cells so the immune system can kill them. It hasn't been tested in humans.

ZMapp's maker, Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, has said “very little of the drug is currently available” and that it is cooperating with government agencies to increase production as quickly as possible. The drug takes several months to produce, meaning that it will be months before any would be available in large amounts. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said publicly that he knows of only three or four doses.

Two American aid workers who were infected with Ebola and flown from Africa to Atlanta have received doses.

Contrary to what many people believe, the “ultimate decision” for who gets an experimental drug is made by the manufacturer, not the government, said Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

The World Health Organization scheduled a special meeting on Monday to discuss how to ration scarce doses of the drug, and is expected to release a statement on Tuesday. There are no proven medications or vaccines to treat Ebola, which has killed at least 961 people, although several therapies are in development.

Anthony Kamara, a 27-year-old man in Freetown, Sierra Leone, said, “Americans are very selfish. They only care about the lives of themselves and no one else.”

He referred to ZMapp as “the miracle serum” that the United States has “refused to share with us to save African lives.”

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