POLITICS

Doctor who survived Ebola virus says drug he took still needs evaluation

12/05/2014 11:03 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - A U.S. doctor who contracted Ebola and was treated with an untested drug partly developed in Canada says he's glad he got the medication, but says it still needs a lot of work before it can be approved for general use.

Dr. Kent Brantly and fellow aid worker Nancy Writebol were diagnosed with the illness while treating patients in Liberia. Both were treated with the experimental drug ZMapp and eventually recovered. Brantly was discharged from an Atlanta hospital in August.

But his survival is no substitute for careful, extended testing and he isn't ready to endorse ZMapp wholeheartedly, he told a news conference on Friday.

Brantly — in Ottawa on behalf of the aid group Samaritan's Purse to talk about the group's use of recent federal funding — said there needs to be a lot more data on its effectiveness before it is approved.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunity I had to receive a drug, even though it had never been given to another human being," he said. "It could have killed me. We didn't know if it was going to work or not.

"To be honest with you, scientifically speaking, until a drug has been tested thoroughly on lots of people and we have a lot of data, we still don't know its efficacy."

He said his case isn't enough to validate the treatment.

"My story is one anecdote — and it's a very compelling anecdote — but it's just one. And before we can say that we have a drug that can cure or treat most cases of Ebola, we have to have the data to prove that."

ZMapp was developed as the result of a collaboration among pharmaceutical companies in Canada and the U.S., the American government and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Brantly said his experience has given him a platform to raise awareness about Ebola.

"My goal in moving to Liberia in the first place was to help the people of Liberia and West Africa," he said.

"I feel like right now, this platform that I have ... is allowing me to help those I went to serve in the first place in a much bigger way than I could caring for 25 to 50 patients a day.

"But in the grand scheme of things, I hope that eventually I get to go back to do the work that I was doing before."

The World Health Organization said as of Wednesday, there had been 17,145 reported cases of Ebola to date — most of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — with 6,070 reported deaths.