As U.S. Bids to Renew Relations With Havana, Heralded Cuban Diabetes Drug Remains Off-Limits – FairWarning | FairWarning

28 Sep

http://www.fairwarning.org/2015/01/u-s-bids-renew-relations-havana-heralded-cuban-diabetes-drug-remains-off-limits/

President Obama’s efforts to renew relations with Cuba may soon allow Americans to visit this island’s pristine beaches and start lugging home shopping bags filled with long-coveted cigars and rum. But for frustrated American physicians battling to save the feet and legs of tens of thousands of diabetic patients, it may be a long wait before a much-heralded limb-saving Cuban drug can legally make the 90-mile trip to U.S. shores.

Because of the Cold War-spawned economic blockade against what Washington has long considered the Communist threat in the Caribbean, the developer of the medication, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, is forbidden to bring a nine-year-old drug, called Heberprot-P, to the U.S. for clinical trials and use.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know that it may be that American legs are being lost while Cuban legs are being saved because Washington agencies won’t allow that medicine in,” said Dr. I. Kelman Cohen, professor emeritus in surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I think all the American medical community really wants is for Heberprot to be allowed into the country for testingLet’s get it tested and see if it will really save the thousands of limbs that many believe it can,” Cohen said.

In December, 2013, 111 members of Congress petitioned the Treasury secretary to allow the drug to be tested in the U.S., but up to now there has been no sign of progress, according to several lawmakers who signed the letter.

Diplomatic talks between Washington and the Castro government on issues such as immigration, travel and commercial ventures are scheduled to start next week. At a briefing today on Obama’s normalization plans, administration officials were asked about the status of Heberprot but were noncommittal.

A proven drug that will thwart flesh-destroying diabetic wounds is desperately sought by physicians throughout the world, according to Dr. David Armstrong, professor of surgery and director of the University of Arizona’s Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance.

Diabetes researchers at Umeå University in Sweden reported in 2013 that worldwide, a limb is lost every 20 seconds because of a foot ulcer that doesn’t heal. According to the American Diabetes Association, in the U.S. alone more than 73,000 diabetics undergo amputations every year, or about one every seven minutes.

“It just rips me apart to know that there may be something out there that has the potential to save limbs and we can’t get a chance to test it because of politics rather than public health,” Armstrong said in an interview. Each year, he and his team at the Tucson medical center spend hours in operating rooms trying to save the lower limbs of more than 11,000 patients from around the world.

“So far this year, there have been several patients who may have benefited from a study of the type needed for the Cuban drug,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.fairwarning.org/2015/01/u-s-bids-renew-relations-havana-heralded-cuban-diabetes-drug-remains-off-limits/#.dpuf

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