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Obama administration setting up group on experimental Ebola drugs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is forming a special Ebola working group to consider setting policy for the potential use of experimental drugs to help the hundreds infected by the deadly disease in Africa, an official said on Thursday.

The group will include scientists and other officials from such government health agencies as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Fauci said in an interview he was unsure when the group would first meet or who would be represented, but added: "I'm sure they'll tap people from NIAID with competence in clinical trials."

The group was being formed under Dr. Nicole Lurie, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, an administration official said.

Expertise in clinical trials, in which patients receive an experimental drug under scientifically rigorous conditions, is crucial, Fauci said.

"You need to balance compassion with the need to figure out if something actually works," he said, referring to the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, from Mapp Biopharmaceutical, which was given to two American aid workers before they were airlifted from Liberia to Emory University Hospital.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Sharon Begley; editing by Michele Gershberg and G Crosse)

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