Cuba develops four cancer vaccines: a lesson for pharmaceutical companies

It is not a preventive vaccine: “This is a therapeutic vaccine, says the director of the site of Castres, Loïc Doguet. It will reduce the progression of the disease and its impact … It is not a preventive vaccine.

That Cuba has already developed four vaccines against different types of cancer is undoubtedly an important news for Humanity (1), if we take into account that, according to the World Health Organization, every year die in the world, by this about 8 million people (2). However, the major international means have ignored it almost completely.

In 2012 Cuba patented the world’s first therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, CIMAVAX-EGF (3). AND in January 2013 the Racotumomab (4) was announced secondly. Clinical trials in 86 countries demonstrate that these vaccines, while not treating the disease, achieve tumor reduction and allow a stable stage of the disease, increasing hope and quality of life.

The Molecular Immunology Center of Havana, owned by the Cuban State, is the creator of all these vaccines. Already in 1985 was developed the vaccine meningitis B (5), unique in the world, and later others, such as those who fight hepatitis B or dengue (6). In addition, he has been researching for years to develop a vaccine against HIV-AIDS (7). Another Cuban state center, LABIOFAM laboratories, develops homeopathic medicines also against cancer: this is the case of VIDATOX, developed from the venom of the blue scorpion (8).

Cuba exports these pharmaceuticals to 26 countries, and participates in joint ventures in China, Canada and Spain (9). All this completely breaks a very wide stereotype, reinforced by the media silence on the advances of Cuba and other countries of the South: according to which the avant-garde medical-pharmaceutical research only occurs in the so-called “developed” countries.

Undoubtedly, the Cuban State obtains an economic return from the international sale of these pharmaceutical products (10). However, its research and commercialization philosophy is at odds with the practice of the large pharmaceutical industry.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine Richard J. Roberts denounced recently that the manufacturers orient their research not to the cure of the diseases, but to the development of drugs for chronic indispositions, much more economically profitable (11). And he pointed out that the diseases of the poorest countries – because of their low profitability – simply do not give rise to research. For this reason, 90% of the budget for research is intended for diseases of 10% of the world’s population.

Cuba’s public medical and pharmaceutical industry, being one of the main sources of foreign exchange for the country, is governed by radically different principles.

First, much of his research is focused on developing vaccines that prevent disease and, as a result, lower the drug costs of the population. In an article in the prestigious journal Science, researchers at Stanford University (California) Paul Drain and Michele Barry assured that Cuba gets better health indicators than the US by spending up to twenty times less (12). The reason: the absence – in the Cuban model of commercial pressures by pharmaceutical companies, and a strategy of education of the population in health prevention.

In addition, natural and traditional therapies – such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, hypnosis and many others – which are unprofitable practices for drug manufacturers, have been integrated for years into the free public health system. the island (13).

On the other hand, in Cuba drugs are distributed, first, in the national public hospital network, free of charge or highly subsidized – precisely because of the hard currency revenues from their exports (14).

The Cuban pharmaceutical industry, moreover, which intends a presupposed advertising budget which, in the case of multinationals, is higher than that invested in the research itself (15).

Finally, Cuba is propelling the production of generic drugs to other poor countries and to the World Health Organization at a price much lower than that of the world’s major industry (16).

But these agreements, foreign to the rules of the market, produce strong pressure from the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, the Government of Ecuador announced the purchase in Cuba of a large number of drugs, in “reciprocity” by scholarships to Ecuadorian students in the island and by the support of Cuban specialists in the program “Manuela Miroir »For the disabled (17). Protests by the Association of Ecuadorian Pharmaceutical Laboratories immediately turned into a media campaign, spreading the message of the supposedly poor quality of Cuban medicines (18).

On the other hand, many analysts see behind the coup in Honduras, in 2009, the big international pharmaceutical industry, since the abandoned government Manuel Zelaya, under the AUBE agreement, claimed to replace the importation of drugs multinationals by Cuban generalists (19).

The US blockade in Cuba imposes major obstacles to the international commercialization of Cuban pharmaceuticals, but also directly harms US citizenship. For example, the 80,000 diabetic people who suffer in this country every year, the amputation of the fingers of their feet, can not access the Cuban vaccine Heperprot P, which precisely avoids them (20).

Peter Agre’s Nobel Prize for Chemicals recently stated that “Cuba is a wonderful example of how to integrate knowledge and scientific research” (21). Irina Bokova, President and Director General of UNESCO, said she felt “very impressed” with Cuba’s scientific achievements and showed the will of this United Nations organization by promoting them in the rest of the world (22). The question is inevitable: will it have the indispensable collaboration of the major international media to disseminate them?

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