The human rights NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders published an article on Friday citing three Cuban medical researchers who concluded that the communist regime’s publicity campaign for Interferon alpha-2b, which it claims can cure Chinese coronavirus, is a “serious crime against world public health.”
“When the Government of Cuba assures that the Interferon developed in Cuba cures the coronavirus, it is committing a serious crime against world public health, since this drug not only lacks any scientific proof, but also where it has been tested has already given null results of encouragement,” the doctors concluded, urging the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to formally condemn the Cuban Communist Party for urging off-label use of a dangerous drug when no clinical trials or scientific confirmations exist that it works.
Interferons are “involved in alerting the cellular immune system to viral infection of host cells. Interferons not only exhibit important antiviral effects but also exert a key influence on the quality of the cellular immune responses and amplify antigen presentation to specific T cells.” A study published in 2004 in the Journal of Clinical Virology found that interferon-beta can “strongly” block multiplication of the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, a type of coronavirus, in human cells, but that interferon-alpha and interferon-gamma did not appear to have the same effect.
The Wuhan coronavirus is believed to be closely related to the SARS coronavirus. Cuba has spent months promoting a domestically developed interferon – interferon-alpha 2b – as a successful antiviral against the Wuhan virus, offering little to no evidence.
The doctors writing the Cuban Prisoners Defenders article warn that the use of interferon-alpha can cause severe side effects in patients while potentially having no effect on the Chinese coronavirus.
“Eminent Cuban doctors who have helped to prepare this report have witnessed its use in the elderly hospitalized with severe, community and hospital pneumonia – now classified as associated with health care – and have attested to Prisoners Defenders of the null reduction in mortality,” the report reads. “The existence of the corresponding clinical trials that justify their use is also unknown.”
The doctors note that the Cuban Communist Party’s argument in favor of the drug is simply that many who have taken it have also survived a Chinese coronavirus infection, which they conclude is insufficient evidence for global use of a drug with severe side effects.
If we consider that most patients develop mild or uncomplicated forms of the disease – some without symptoms – around approx. 14% can present severe forms with the need to receive oxygen, and another approx. 5% may require admission to Intensive Care units, how is it possible to ensure that the good evolution of most patients is due to the use of Heberferon [the brand name for Cuban interferon-alpha 2b] and not to the natural course of the disease?
If there are no minimally serious scientific protocols, with a control group, that is, patients who do not receive this drug to compare the evolution with those who do, and even other placebo control groups, the results are more than questionable and are not minimally serious.
It does not have the minimum necessary to be considered a scientific investigation.
As interferon-alpha has been used to treat hepatitis, the report quotes a hepatologist, Edward Mena, who states that their use results in a “very strong and difficult treatment.”
“The side effects are like you’re in chemical therapy. Patients have nausea, vomiting, body pain, anemia; platelets, white blood cells are lowered … it is a very strong and difficult treatment. The side effects are many,” Mena reportedly said.
The drug could “kill, rather than cure patients,” the doctors say.
Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, proclaimed in March that the Cuban interferon was showing “effectiveness in treating patients with the new SARS Cov-2 coronavirus.” It thanked Fidel Castro – a lawyer, not a virologist, by trade – for the “visionary thinking” that created the interferon and claimed that Cuban and Chinese scientists came up with the treatment together. Granma had previously stated that Cuba was somehow developing 22 drugs to fight coronavirus, none of them accepted as treatments for the Wuhan virus.
Interferon-alpha 2b’s use against coronavirus in Wuhan, where the virus originated, has become part of the Cuban state media lore about its success. Yet the doctors writing for Cuban Prisoners Defenders say “experts [in Wuhan] come to tell us to ‘try if you want, but we have tried it and we have not obtained evidence of its benefits.'”
Cuban Prisoners Defenders concludes that the “reckless and dangerous” use and promotion of the drug is an attempt by the Cuban government to enrich itself even further off of its medical businesses, the largest of which is its $11-billion-a-year slave doctor trade.
“Cuba generates from 2 to 6 times the national income of tourism through the “rent” in a state of slavery of doctors that are sent to more than 60 countries in the world,” the doctors write.
While no drug has received universal approval as a safe treatment for coronavirus, the use of interferon-beta – not the interferon Cuba is promoting – is part of a drug cocktail undergoing trials under the W.H.O.’s auspices. Testing has reportedly begun on the use of interferon-beta along with two antivirals, Science magazine reported in March. One of the researchers the magazine quoted warned, “if it is given late in the disease it could easily lead to worse tissue damage instead of helping patients.”