MRU Scientists Discuss Ethics, Regulatory Challenges during Emergency Situations

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At least 60 delegates from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria have concluded a two-day Meeting in Monrovia on ethics and regulatory challenges during emergency situations.

They were joined by several global health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Food and Drug Administration, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US National Institutes of Health as well as other organizations from the Mano River Union (MRU), West Africa and France.

The meeting, which began on August 26 and ended on 27, discussed ethics and regulatory challenges during medical emergency situations. It was organized by the sub-regional Collaboration Group of the three countries worst affected by the Ebola virus disease – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The objective was to identify ethical and regulatory challenges associated with clinical trials during emergencies and to seek sub-regional strategies to effectively intervene.

Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, in his welcome statement, expressed gratitude to the sub-regional effort to build collaborative systems that will lead to building the technical and scientific capacities to ethically respond to emergency situations.

“I am especially happy because I was one person who had to trot from one city to the other during the height of the Ebola crisis, trying to bring the global attention to and woo support for the fight against the Ebola virus disease,” he said.

He heaped praises on Dr. Stephen Kennedy, and his team at the Partnership for Research on the Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL) and all others, who contributed immensely to the organization of the Monrovia gathering, which took place at the Monrovia City Hall.

“Today with the sirens of ambulances not wailing through the streets of Monrovia, Conakry or Freetown and CNN, Al-Jazeera and BBC not zooming in on and reporting about helpless mothers with their babies tumbling to death on the doorsteps of ETUs; and doctors and health workers losing their precious lives in the process of trying to save others; we can now afford the luxury of sitting back and conducting a post-mortem on how we performed in terms of treading the tightrope of responding quickly and effectively to one of the world’s most deadly health crises, while trying to do so within the perimeters of medical ethics and regulations.”

Minister Ngafuan said during the height of the Ebola emergency, pandemonium and fear reigned supreme in the nook and corner of worst-hit nations.

He added: “We did not have the time to fully reflect and consider all the many and varied implications of our actions. We had to act and act fast.”

“In Liberia, the Ebola crisis exposed us to many fears in many ways and put many medical practitioners and family members on the horns of a dilemma, being forced to make difficult and uncomfortable choices. For a person who wants to live, there is not much of a choice between virtual certainty of death within 21 days versus the slim probability of survival within 21 days if a therapeutic drug is administered regardless of whether such a drug has been fully approved or not.”

He disclosed that the Ebola epidemic was “massive”, so much so that it led the United Nations Security Council, for the first time in its history, to pass a resolution declaring the crisis a threat to global peace and security.

He then wished that deliberations from the Monrovia gathering would yield fruitful and successful outcomes, which will give clarity as to how they respond in future health emergencies.

Liberia currently chairs the Sub-regional Collaborative Working Group set up in the aftermath of the EVD by scientists and medical experts from the three worst affected countries to share technology on research and clinical trials to eliminate Ebola and other infectious diseases from the MRU basin.

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