Health Care in Developing Nations International Health Care Systems Pharmaceuticals

Cuban Exports: Sugar, Cigars…and Cancer drugs?

Cuba is well known for its high quality cigars and sugar production, but is less well-known for its production of high quality pharmaceuticals.  According to MSNBC, “With more than 7,000 scientists dedicated to researching new drugs, Cuba has one of the most sophisticated biotech industries in the developing world. Last year the country earned $350 million from exporting 180 different medicines.”  After Ronald Regean reinstated the Cuban trade embargo in 1982, Cuba had to rely on its own biotech industry to produce drugs, since it could not import them directly from the U.S.  Thus spawned the Cuban biotech industry.

The latest news out of Havana claims that Cuba researchers have a new discovery.  According to news reports from Havana, a Cuban Research Institute has just patented a promising lung cancer drug.  The drug is called CimaVax EGF and in clinical trials it has been shown to increase life expectancy in lung cancer patients by 4-5 months.  Researchers claim that those who use CimaVax EGF “…breathe easier, experience less fatigue, less pain and increased appetite. It is administered in conjunction with conventional treatments of chemo and radiotherapy.”

When you think of Cuba, images of  Fidel Castro and Cohiba may come to mind.  But soon, you may have to think of Cuba as the home of live-saving lung cancer drugs.


  1. It is hard to know what medical treatments really are available in Cuba. My husband has an eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa, that I’ve heard numerous times “Cuba has the cure” for. There are currenly no known cures for this disease and it is very complicated because it involves the retina. Scientists around the world are working on gene therapy, stem cell treatments, and bionic solutions. I find it hard to believe that today, over in Cuba, there is a cure for RP. Yet, I would welcome the cure, or evidence of it. I’m pretty sure a discovery of this magnitude would have made its way out and, after all, not all countries have a ban on Cuba. The thought that Cuba has made such great progress gives hope to the future when U.S. citizens might be able to have access to it, but I have doubts about the country’s medical prowess. Thank you for the article. I would like to see one of those 7,000 scientists come up with something that would amaze the world and help those suffering in the world.

  2. It does not surprise me that Cuba is making great strides in medical research – my friends in Cuba (poor by an standard) receive excellent medical care – even if getting things like over-the-counter pain killers or vitamins is still difficult. Cuba has a highly educated populace and a system that places great emphasis on public health. Cuba also sends thousands of nurses, doctors and other health care professionals overseas on volunteer missions – and not just to left wing countries like Bolivia but to places like Pakistan and Mali.

    Before too much longer Cuba and a few other Latin American countries might be the only place on earth with universal public health care systems.

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