Cuba’s Health Innovations Matter to U.S

“We need to benefit more from several successful innovations developed in Cuba related to biotechnology and health that would help people in the U.S and elsewhere in the world. However, this requires high level coordination between the two countries”, according to Pierre M. Laramie PhD, Executive Director for “Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba” (MEDICC) located in Oakland California.

The panelists at the briefing “Why Cuban Innovation Matters to our Health in the U.S.” held on Capitol Hill, highlighted the important innovations that Cuba has been able to achieve in recent years. The speakers suggested that U.S health professionals should use strategies developed from the Cuban health field, to improve health outcomes for Americans in underserved communities. Some of the speakers stressed that, the U.S. and Cubans must develop regulatory and policy changes to enable effective collaboration between the two countries.

Several facts stands out. Cuba’s healthcare system emphasizes primary care and prevention which has enabled the country to achieve infant mortality and life expectancy rates at comparable levels to the U.S but at a fraction of the cost. In addition, Cuba has one of the world’s highest doctor-to-patient ratios.

Cuba’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM) is contributing to good medical care in the country since 25,000 doctors in the medical program come from over 83 countries. Most of the medical students come from low income families in medically underserved areas.

One of the most serious medical issues worldwide is diabetes. In just the U.S. alone, CDC estimates there are 25.8 million diabetics. Each year 70,000 to 80,000 become disabled from being diabetic and risk diabetic foot ulcers which is one of the disease’s most serious complications.

U.S minorities are particularly vulnerable to diabetes. According to the “Alliance to Reduce Disparities in Diabetes”, 16 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives suffer from the disease, plus 13 percent of African Americans, 12 percent of Hispanics, and 8 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are faced with the consequences of the disease.

To help remedy the serious medical situation, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba has developed a medication called Heberprot-P which has treated 165,000 diabetic-foot patients in more than 20 countries and has reduced the relative risk for amputation by more than 70 percent. The treatment is in trials in five more countries and will shortly be in trial in Europe, where the medication is known as Epiprot.

A new application in 2015 for Cuba to obtain a license for the sale of the drug in this country was denied by U.S officials. According to Dr. Laramie and many other officials, the Treasury Department should clear the way for the regulatory process and sales as the returns on sales would benefit Cuban Healthcare facilities and professionals.

Another innovative vaccine called Cimavax, created by Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology^idm=2, is a therapeutic anticancer vaccine for use in adult patients with lung cancer. The vaccine works with an individual’s immune response to slow the growth of tumors. Developed over 25 years, the vaccine has been made available to Cuban patients since 2011 and been used on 5,000 patients worldwide.


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