This is big news. In other words: Don’t expect to find this in any major English-language media outlet soon.
That Cuba has already developed four vaccines against different types of cancer is undoubtedly an important bit of news for Humanity, if we recall that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 8 million people die of this illness every year. However, the major international media have ignored this almost completely.
In 2012, Cuba patented the world’s first therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer, CIMAVAX-EGF. And in January 2013, the second, called Racotumomab, was announced. Clinical trials in 86 countries demonstrate that these vaccines, though they do not cure the disease, have succeeded in reducing the tumors, and permit stabilization of the illness, increasing hope and quality of life.
The Centre for Molecular Immunology in Havana, owned by the Cuban state, is the creator of these vaccines. In 1985 it developed the world’s only vaccine against meningitis B, and later, others, such as those against hepatitis B and dengue. As well, scientists there have been working for years to develop a vaccine against HIV/AIDS. Another Cuban state centre, Labiofam Laboratories, developed a homeopathic medicament against cancer: VIDATOX, made from the venom of the Cuban blue scorpion.
Cuba exports these pharmaceuticals to 26 countries, and participates in joint ventures with China, Canada and Spain. All of this completely destroys a very widespread stereotype, reinforced by media silence regarding the advances of Cuba and other lands of the global South: namely, that the vanguard of medical-pharmaceutical research only occurs in so-called “developed countries”.
The Nobel laureate in medicine, Richard J. Roberts, recently denounced that pharmaceutical companies orient their investigations not to the cure of illnesses, but toward the development of medications for chronic illnesses, which is much more profitable. He also stated that the illnesses endemic to the poorest countries were simply not researched, due to their low profitability. For this reason, 90% of all research budgets are earmarked for the illnesses of just 10% of the global population.
The public medical/pharmaceutical industry of Cuba, though one of the key sources of income for the country, is governed by radically different principles.
Firstly, its research is directed, in large part, to developing vaccines to prevent diseases and, in consequence, lower the cost of medicaments for the population. In an article in the prestigious journal Science, Stanford University researchers Paul Drain and Michele Barry stated that Cuba has better health indicators than the US, while spending almost twenty times less. The reason: the Cuban model’s lack of commercial pressures and stimuli for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and a successful disease prevention/education strategy for the general population.
Also, natural and traditional therapies, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and others, while unprofitable for pharmaceutical companies, have been integrated for years in the island’s free public health system.
On the other hand, in Cuba, medicines are distributed primarily through the national public hospital system, either for free or heavily subsidized, thanks to their earnings from the export market.
The Cuban pharmaceutical industry also barely spends anything on publicity, which, for multinationals, exceeds even the amount invested in their own research.
Finally, Cuba leads the production of generic pharmaceuticals, which it provides to other poor countries and the WHO, at a price much lower than those of multinationals.
But these agreements, alien to the rules of the market, have come under great pressures from the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, the government of Ecuador announced that it would buy several important medicaments from Cuba, in “exchange” for the scholarships granted to Ecuadorian students on the island, and for the aid of Cuban specialists in the program, “Manuela Espejo”, for disabled persons. The protests from the Ecuadorian Association of Pharmaceutical Laboratories immediately became a media campaign, spreading the message of the supposedly poor quality of Cuban pharmaceuticals.
As well, numerous analysts see the giants of the international pharmaceutical industry behind the coup d’état in Honduras. The government of the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, in accordance with the ALBA agreement, intended to substitute generic Cuban medicaments for those of the multinationals.
The US blockade against Cuba imposes great obstacles to the international sale of Cuban pharmaceuticals, but it also directly affects the people of the US. For example, 80,000 diabetic US citizens a year suffer the amputation of their toes, and have no access to the Cuban vaccine, Heperprot P, which prevents precisely this condition.
Nobel-winning chemist Peter Agre recently stated that “Cuba is a magnificent example of how scientific knowledge and research can be integrated.” Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, said that she was “greatly impressed” by the scientific achievements of Cuba, and expressed the willingness of the UN organization to promote their use in the rest of the world. The question is inevitable: Can Cuba count on the indispensable collaboration of the big international media to spread the news?
Cuba really is a giant when it comes to preventive medicine, and the cost savings to healthcare systems cannot be underestimated. Its vaccine program is an integral part of that. But since vaccines are cost-savers, rather than cost-generators, they are deemed unprofitable in Big Pharma. The result: antivaxxer nonsense running rampant while corporate non-cures rack up the big $$$ale$$$.
And if you ever wonder just how dangerous and destructive the (corporate-benefiting) anti-vaccine hysteria is, read this. It’s too long to meaningfully excerpt here, especially after that huge whack of translation, but it lays bare the absurdity at the heart of antivaxxer phobia. (Hint: PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS!) The only part I’d disagree with is the bit about GMOs, which are clearly a corporate bastard and NOT an acceptable answer to Third World poverty and hunger. (Read up on the Vavilov Centres if you don’t believe me. The most genetically diverse, pest-resistant, and nourishing food crops of the world all originated in those same poor countries Monsanto et al are trying to exploit for their GMOs now.)