The Cuban pharmaceutical industry has been key to the national strategy to confront the SARS-COV-2 pandemic, guaranteeing medications to implement treatment protocols established by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap), including several products used successfully with high-risk segments of the population, reducing the number of patients reaching serious and critical conditions, as well as mortality rates for this group.
This reality is described in an article on the sector’s contributions to the COVID-19 battle, published in the Cuban Academy of Sciences’ journal, Anales, authored by five
of our country’s most accomplished scientists: Eduardo Martínez Díaz, BioCubaFarma CEO; Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, director for Science and Innovation for BioCubaFarma; BioCubaFarma CEO advisors, Luis Herrera Martínez and Agustín Lage Dávila; and academic Lila Castellanos Serra.
The text begins by recalling that Cuba’s bio-pharmaceutical sector has accumulated extensive experience in confronting complex epidemiological situations on a national level.
In case of COVID-19, the authors outline factors that were decisive in ensuring that Cuban health services were never overwhelmed and that both incidence and mortality rates have not reached even one sixth of their international levels. These critical factors include early preventative action; the integration of different institutions and sectors of society in all efforts; the direct link between the scientific community and the government; and the participation of the vast majority of the people.
When the new coronavirus, labeled sars-cov-2 and cause of the disease COVID-19, first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in December of 2019, Cuba began to carefully monitor the situation.
Before the first three cases were reported on the island, this past March, a strategy to confront the pandemic was already being implemented by the Party, state institutions, and the government.
The article notes, “The Ministry of Public Health created a COVID-19 national technical group which approved the National Prevention and Control Plan in January of 2020,” continuing, “BioCubaFarma, through its representatives in China, obtained information early regarding the outbreak in Wuhan, and measures adopted in this country. Based on this valuable information, along with reports and recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), an intense process of scientific debate was launched and the elaboration of proposals for research and development projects by its enterprises and expert groups within its scientific-technical council.”
The fact that Cuba has a national industry in state hands, with tested production and research capacity, has been a key strength, allowing results to be achieved and an effective response to the demands of the national health system provided, within a short period of time.
“The first task was guaranteeing the production of medications included in the approved National COVID-19 Research Protocol,” the authors recount, citing among these recombinant Interferon Alfa-2b and other drugs for hospital use, to treat the disease and its complications.
Likewise, the production of facemasks and sanitization products was initiated, while the repair of intensive care equipment was stepped up, along with production of personal protective wear for health workers including facemasks with filters, face shields, googles, and airtight scrubs.
The scientific capacity of BioCubaFarma enterprises was mobilized to introduce a series of novel products used on a number of fronts in the battle to contain the disease.
The joint research program undertaken by Minsap and BioCubaFarma currently includes dozens of projects addressing a number of issues, such as the prevention of infections in at-risk and vulnerable groups; treatment of confirmed cases, and patients in serious and critical condition specifically; as well as recovery from the disease, with a view toward reducing the risk of long term consequences of the infection.
This strategy has undoubtedly served as an important tool that does not reflect the distorted interests of private property and the market economy, but rather serves as a great strength in the entire people’s struggle for life.
The Cuban Pharmaceutical Industry
-The founding steps to establish the industry were taken 35 years ago by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, who consistently encouraged and guided its growth and development
-Cuba has been active in the sector since the very beginnings of modern biotechnology and established its own model of scientific work and innovation, with internationally
-The National Center for Scientific Research (cnic) emerged in 1965 and became the training ground for scientists who went on to establish other institutions.
-The first great success f nascent Cuban biotechnology was a vaccine against type B meningitis, that served to contain an epidemic of this illness in the 1980s.
-This decade marked the take-off of Cuban biotechnology with the creation of the Biological Front and the inauguration of the Center for Biological Research in 1982, the
Genetic engineering and Biotechnology Center (cigb) in 1986, the Inmunoensayo Center (cie) in 1987, and other institutes that in 1992 came together in the Havana Scientific Pole.
-In 2012, these institutions merged with pharmaceutical industry companies, to become part of the BioCubaFarma state enterprise group.
+ 800 products delivered to the national health care system including 349 medications included in the Basic Supply
+ 100 clinical trials being simultaneously conducted with its products at 200 sites
+ 50 countries importing its products
INMUNOENSAYO CENTER (CIE):
1 562 laboratories in Cuba
546 laboratories abroad
Cuban Experience in Confronting Epidemics:
The participation of biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry in national health emergencies, under the leadership of our Comandante en Jefe, constitutes an example of integration with other social actors, in the mobilization of science and productive capacities with a sense of urgency and strategic focus, which this year has served as the foundation of efforts to contain COVID-19.
Achievements in the Covid-19 Battle
BioCubaFarma has worked on 16 projects to produce new treatments and medical technologies to prevent and combat the disease. Eleven of these products involve clinical studies or trial interventions with patients and at-risk groups. Five products with preventative properties have been evaluated to stimulate the immune system, both the innate and adaptive, for different vulnerable groups, including medical personnel.
Biomodulina-t, immunomodulator of natural origin
Hebertrans (Transference factor)
Nasalferón (for nasal administration of recombinant human interferon alfa-2b)
Heberon® (recombinant human interferon alfa-2b)
Heberferon® (ifn alfa-2b + ifn gamma)
Jusvinza, peptide immunomodulator
Itolizumab, monoclonal antibody anti-cd6
Medications Being Evaluated
Peptidecigb300, inhibitor of enzyme caseína quinasa.
Anti-meningococcus vaccine vamengo-bc, & cigb2020 vaccine.
Specific vaccines against sarscov-2: The Cuban immunization regimen includes 13 vaccines, 8 of which are produced in Cuba.
Source article: “La Industria Biofarmaceutica Cubana en el Combate contra la Pandemia de Covid-19″
Published in the Cuban Academy of Social Sciences Journal “Anales”
This article first appeared in Granma.