“I just want to say that Obama had nothing to do with the drug coming to Liberia. The only thing that the Federal Agency FDA had to do was to say send the drug at the range of the people who are asking for it. But they have not approved the use of the drug themselves. This is an experimental drug. It has not been approved for general use, it cannot therefore leave the United States,” Liberia’s Health Minister Walter T. Gwenigale
Monrovia – With Liberians stilling battling the deadly Ebola virus, which has already claimed several lives the government of Liberia seems to be lost in adequately disseminating information surrounding the its dealing with Ebola virus.
The latest contradiction from the Executive branch of government headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf comes perhaps with a serious embarrassment on the part of government, which publicly draws US President Barack Obama closer to a Liberian government effort in obtaining experimental serum for Ebola victims in Liberia.
An Executive Mansion release late Monday evening confirmed that 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 release went on to say that President Obama’s approval was in response to an August 8, 2014 communication sent to President Barrack Obama by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in which she requested the experimental Serum to be used on the affected Liberian doctors, adding that the experimental drugs are to be brought into the country by a representative of the U.S. Government later this week.
But barely a night after the executive mansion’s release, Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr. Walter Gwenigale quickly appeared on the United Nations radio to dispel the executive mansion’s claim
Obama played no role
Dr. Gwenigale revealed on UNMIL radio’s coffee break program that neither President Barack Obama nor the US Food and Drug Administration approved the ZMapp experimental serum, but it was Liberia’s who requested the drug at her own risk, a statement that contradicts the executive mansion release.
Said Dr. Gwenigale: “I just want to say that Obama had nothing to do with the drug coming to Liberia. The only thing that the Federal Agency FDA had to do was to say send the drug at the range of the people who are asking for it. ” “But they have not approved the use of the drug themselves. This is an experimental drug. It has not been approved for general use, it cannot therefore leave the United States.”
Who gets the experimental serum?
Clarifying further about the trial drug on the BBC Focus on Africa program Tuesday, Minister Gwenigale noted that upon the request from Liberia for the drugs, the government was promised three doses but was not sure how many would come to the country.
Said Gwenigale: “Originally we were going to get only three doses, but I don’t know how many they will send because it seems that the WHO may have spoken to them, they may be sending more? I do not know. But we are not just going to take them and start using them. It is an experimental drug so people have to sign a waiver and ask us to give it to them because it is not just a drug that is for general use.
The Liberian Health Minister revealed that infected patients who would want to benefit from the drug will have to sign a similar waiver that was signed by the Liberian government with the maker of the drug, clearing them from any liability in case of circumstances that may arise as a result of the usage of the drug.
Continued Dr. Gwenigale: “For us to receive the drug, I had to write to say all patients who receive this could not sue the company that is giving me the drug for any reason. If you want us to try the drug for you, you have to say that we are not liable for anything that happens to you as a consequence of receiving the drug. “
“You have to remember that the death rate is from fifty percent to ninety percent. So if you receive the drug and still die we cannot be held responsible by saying you give me the drug that’s why I died. That is the condition we are receiving the drug from the company.”
Quizzed as to who will be prioritized in obtaining the drug, Gwenigale said the matter was an ethical issues and that the number of doses for the drug will push for a strong determination. “Of course I have said to you before I was trying to prevent my health workers from dying, but this is an ethical issue, so if someone asks that they want me to try it on them I will have to see the chances of that person living.”
“It depends on the stage of the disease. If it looks like the person will not live, whatever we do, we will be wasting the drug and we will give to them,” the Liberian Health Minister noted. Shortly after Gwenigale’s revelation, the executive mansion quickly removed the earlier release, replacing it with a new version.
Said the Executive Mansion on Tuesday: “The Liberian Government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) for the use of the experimental serum on two Liberian medical doctors who are struggling for their lives after contracting the deadly Ebola virus disease.
According an Executive Mansion clarification, Doctors Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor, who contracted the disease while attending to patients, including a late colleague, gave written consent for the drug to be administered to them. The consent was given to the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Maker by the affected doctors through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
The FDA’s approval is to allow the drug maker send the experimental drug to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare only for use by the two doctors. The drugs should be in the country within the next 48 hours.” Obama had earlier ruled out the use of the experimental drug, drawing criticisms from many who cried foul that the West was only concerned about white doctors and not the scores of Africans who were dying in droves.
A plea from Liberia’s neighbors, Nigeria was rejected last week by the U.S. The Federal Government of Nigeria had earlier reached out to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, in Atlanta, to the request of the drug for treatment of EVD affected persons in Nigeria, but President Obama turned down the request, saying it would be far more beneficial to focus on prevention instead. Obama said it is too soon to send an experimental drug used to treat the deadly Ebola virus to West Africa,
Two American doctors who worked in Liberia combating Ebola benefited from the ZMapp drug after they both tested positive and were subsequently evacuated to an Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, USA where they are said to be improving. But a Spanish Priest Fr. Miguel Pajares who contracted the virus at the Catholic Hospital in Liberia but also received the drug died yesterday at a Madrid Hospital. The Government said it would cremate his body to stop the further spread of the virus in Spain.
With Liberian government still finding it difficult to mange its information strategy, it’s unclear what harm or embarrassment the Executive Mansion may have caused the US and its President as the US Embassy in Liberia is expected to host a major press conference today, perhaps to address the claim.