The Cuban state propaganda outlet “Cuba Debate” published a story on Thursday lamenting that the embargo on the communist state keeps Havana from being able to ship its experimental anti-viral to the White House to help President Donald Trump fight the Chinese coronavirus.
Cuban authorities, who make billions selling health worker slaves to friendly countries, have spent months convincing the world that a communist-made combination of interferons, a subset of antiviral proteins, has proven effective against Chinese coronavirus and could compete with other drugs more prominently being tested to help fight coronavirus infection, such as Remdesivir, the drug President Trump ultimately took. The Communist Party newspaper Granma has personally thanked late dictator Fidel Castro for the alleged medical breakthrough. Cuba has received support in its pursuit of interferon therapy from few states, notably Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
In April, a group of anti-communist Cuban medical researchers warned that giving patients Cuban-made interferon drugs was “reckless and dangerous” and Havana’s promotion of the medication a “serious crime against world public health.”
The author of the Cuba Debate piece, Dr. Anselmo Abdo, titled it, “Blockade Prevents President Trump from Receiving Cuban Medicine to Treat COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” implying that Trump had a desire to receive them.
“The American blockade towards Cuba has prevented President Trump’s medical team from evaluating other alternative antiviral therapies like HeberFERON,” Abdo wrote.
HerberFERON is the brand name of a Cuban blend of interferon-alpha 2b and interferon-gamma. Abdo claims that 77 percent of Cuban patients given this blend recovered from coronavirus in four days, but does not note the severity of their infections, meaning that there is no proof taking the drug had anything to do with their recovery. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) notes in its list of coronavirus symptoms that “some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms” and “most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment.”
Abdo himself admits in his lament that Trump had no access to experimental Cuban drugs, “there is no medical treatment of choice for the disease,” including interferons.
The Cuban propagandist concluded that the United States violated its own president’s rights.
“Health is a universal right of every human being. Prohibiting the use of effective medicines against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by any American patient, including its president, should be condemned and amended,” Abdo wrote.
As the Cuban interest publication Diario de Cuba noted in its report on the Cuba Debate piece, “as far as is known, the health professionals who treated the American president did not publicly solicit any medicines of Cuban origin.” There is no evidence Trump requested and was denied Cuban products. The newspaper also notes that the embargo prevents only the importing of Cuban medicine into the United States, as trade with Cuba is generally illegal, but the U.S. allows the sale of American medicines in Cuba as a humanitarian exception to the embargo since 2000.
Abdo also does not address that the embargo is not the only hurdle an experimental drug from a rogue regime would have to clear to be sold freely in the United States. the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have to approve it specifically for coronavirus use. HerberFERON, of course, has no such approval, but interferon-alpha 2b is FDA-approved to help treat several cancers.
While the FDA has approved some treatments on an emergency basis for Chinese coronavirus, such as Remdesivir, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explicitly warn against the use of interferons to treat this disease.
“Studies have shown no benefit of interferons in patients with other coronavirus infections (i.e., Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS], severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS]) who have severe or critical disease,” NIH notes in its guidance on the issue. “In addition, interferons have significant toxicities that outweigh the potential for benefit. Interferons may have antiviral activity early in the course of infection. However, there is insufficient data to assess the potential benefit of interferon use during early disease versus the toxicity risks.”
The human rights NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders warned in a statement in April, citing Cuban medical researchers, against the use of interferons on coronavirus patients for similar reasons.
“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 researchers said in a report published through the NGO.
“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 read. “The existence of the corresponding clinical trials that justify their use is also unknown.”
The report also noted that doctors in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, did use interferons experimentally in the early days of the pandemic, but found it had no effect in either direction in treating coronavirus patients.