Cuban drug could save thousands of lives in COVID-19 pandemic

Cuban biotech researcher. Photo: Ismael Batista/Granma International.

Cuban medicine could treat thousands of coronavirus patients as production of a “flagship” drug known to combat the disease is set to increase significantly.

President of the BioCubaFarma group Eduardo Martinez said Cuba has developed 22 drugs that are set to be used to contain the outbreak.

One of the drugs, Interferon alfa-2b, has managed to effectively cure more than 1500 patients from COVID-19 and is one of 30 drugs chosen by the Chinese National Health Commission to combat respiratory disease.

It was first developed in 1986 by a team of researchers from the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) and introduced into the Cuban health system.

Now produced by a Cuba–China joint venture, as part of an agreement between the countries, Martinez described Interferon alfa-2b as “the flagship product of the set of Cuban medicines”.

He said the drug could also be exported to help contain the spread of the virus and treat those that are showing symptoms.

CIGB director Eulogio Pimentel said they have enough supplies “equivalent to treating practically all the infected cases that occurred in China,” where more than 80,000 people have been infected.

“We think that we are capable of satisfying not only the possible demand in Cuba but also the requests that we are getting from other countries, and that are increasing day by day,” he added.

Cuba has sent a team of doctors and supplies of Interferon alfa-2b to Italy where it is working alongside Chinese experts to help combat and contain the coronavirus outbreak.

[Abridged from Morning Star online.]

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