President of Cuba's state run pharmaceutical company Biocubafarma, Eduardo Martínez, told a recent press conference in Cuba,that his company has some 22 medicines for dealing with and treating COVID-19 as well as its possible complications.
Martinez explained that these 22 medicines are part of 300 produced by Biocubafarma, which are the basic ones distributed to healthcare centres and pharmacies across the country in the fight against COVID-19.
Martínez stated that there is no defined treatment for this new virus, but there are instead, some previous experiences on drugs already used in other outbreaks, such as Interferon Alfa 2B, successfully applied in China against COVID-19, which has been created and produced by Cuba's Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
Despite the U.S. blockade, which prevents a stable production of these 300 medicines, Martínez stressed that the Cuban government is managing to acquire new resources, raw materials and spare parts to guarantee the production of antiviral drugs, antibiotics, cardiac dysrhythmia drugs, anaesthetics, parenteral solutions and many others for fighting COVID-19.
"We are focused on increasing drug coverage, organization of production systems and purchase of resources to timely have all medicines the national health system requires to fight this pandemic, as well as the development of new products," said Martínez.
Production of the drug is expected to increase significantly after receiving requests from a large number of countries. He assured that the CIGB has enough supplies to meet the needs of the international market, without putting at risk the amounts required by its own country.
The antiviral recombinant Interferon alfa 2B (IFNrec), developed in Cuba in 1986 by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) and has been used as a treatment for HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, Herpes zoster or Shingles, Dengue and different types of cancers.
Interferons are “signalling” proteins, explains Dr. Helen Yaffe of Glasgow University, an expert on Cuba. These proteins are produced and released by the body in response to infections and alert nearby cells to heighten their antiviral defences. It is not a cure or a vaccine to COVID-19, but rather an antiviral that boosts the human immune system.
Produced in China at the Changchun Heber Biological Technology in Jilin province, Interferon Alpha 2B has been used successfully in China to effectively knock the virus from hundreds of patients at the onset of the respiratory disease. It is said to be integral to reducing the number of deaths.
This is the flagship product of the set of Cuban medicines, which is manufactured both on the island and in a joint venture in the Asian nation, and is highly recommended by medical specialists for its ability to fight the virus. “All the capacities” exist to supply the national health system and even other nations, according to Martínez.
It has prevented thousands of deaths in South Korea. Out of the 8,000 infected persons, only 72 died. Germany has also bought this antiviral from the ChangHeber to fight the pandemic. Out of the 3,156 infected people, only 3 died.
After the effectiveness of the Cuban drug was discovered, the country has been flooded with purchase orders for Interferon Alpha 2B from several Latin American, Caribbean and European countries requesting medical aid from Cuba in order to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.
A team of Cuban doctors and supplies of Interferon Alpha 2B were sent to Italy, to work alongside Chinese experts to help combat and contain the outbreak of the COVID -19 pandemic. Italy is the second most affected country in the world, after China, with more than 17,000 infected people and 1,266 deaths.
The Cuban drug has also been exported to several Latin American countries such as Panama and Venezuela, and others to help contain the spread of the virus and treat those who are showing symptoms.
The governments of Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have also requested that Cuban authorities support them by sending medical personnel, adequate infrastructure and a plan to treat the people infected with coronavirus.
Jamaica's Health Minister Christopher Tufton announced that 21 specialist nurses from Cuba would arrive shortly, the first of more than 100 as there is a shortage of anesthesiologists and speciaslist ICU nurses to operate the ventilators he hopes to pourchase.
It is not known however, whether Jamaica has ordered any of Cuba's much sought after antiviral medicines. However, St. Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says (SVG) will hire some 20 nurses, locally, as well as three medical doctors and 12 nurses from Cuba who specialise in handling infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Kingstown has placed with Havana an order to purchase cycles of the dosage of the drug Interferon for 50 persons.
Gonsalves said he has been in touch with Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Didacus Jules regarding purchase of the medicine and the OECS pharmaceutical services has also placed an additional order of the same drug for SVG and for the other OECS countries.
“So we are ordering ourselves directly and also the OECS is doing it for us and the other eight members of the OECS,” Gonsalves said.
He said that the OECS purchases are being made from resources provided by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
He added: “I have been advised that the drug Interferon strengthens the immune system of a person to fight viruses. It is essentially, I have been advised, an anti-viral pharmaceutical product.
“I’ve also been advised that it is one of six drugs that the Chinese government has been using to help them to contain the spread of COVID-19 inside of China.”
The drug is a proof of the power of Cuban biogenetic engineering and biotechnological advancements, which has forced the world to seek help from Cuba despite the US imposed commercial blockade against it.
Cuba has historically worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries with medical assistance. Under a humanitarian medical mission, founded more than 55 years ago in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution led by Commander Fidel Castro, Cuba has provided almost-free healthcare services in over 160 countries across the globe.
The administration of US president Donald Trump, through secretary of state Mike Pompeo, has been attacking Cuban doctors as a part of its policy of strangling the Cuban economy in their effort to bring down the government.
The Trump administration has demanded that its allies in the region withdraw their cooperation agreements with Cuba and expel their Cuban medical staff including doctors, nurses and technicians.
The US has however been receiving a firm push back from the 15 member CARICOM which have a firm historical and fraternal relationship with Cuba which has supplied the region with hundreds of medical personnel.
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