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Cuba introduces two drugs curbing death toll of coronavirus

16:36 | 25/05/2020

The Cuba's top leader said that use of two drugs produced by its biotech industry that reduce hyper-inflammation in seriously ill COVID-19 patients has sharply curbed its coronavirus-related death toll.

cuba introduces two drugs curbing death toll of coronavirus Cuban national hero Jose Marti commemorated in Hanoi
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cuba introduces two drugs curbing death toll of coronavirus

Cuba's Interferon alfa-2b works in treating COVID-19 in China. Photo: CGTN.

Health authorities of Cuba have reported just two virus-related deaths over the past nine days among more than 200 active cases on the Caribbean’s largest island, a sign they may have the worst of the outbreak under control.

As cited by Reuters, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Thursday in a meeting shown on state television that “Some 80 percent of patients who end up in critical condition are dying. In Cuba, with the use of these drugs, 80 percent of those who end up in critical or serious condition are being saved”.

The government, which hopes to increase its biopharmaceutical exports, has touted various drugs it produces for helping prevent infection with the new coronavirus and treating the COVID-19 disease it causes.

cuba introduces two drugs curbing death toll of coronavirus
Cuban doctors came to assist Italy in fighting coronavirus pandemic in March. Photo: Reuters.

It ascribes the recent reduction in deaths of severely ill COVID-19 patients largely to the use beginning in April of two drugs that appear to help calm the “cytokine storm,” a dangerous overresponse by the immune system in which it attacks healthy tissue as well as the invading virus.

One is itolizumab, a monoclonal antibody produced in Cuba and elsewhere. The other is a peptide that Cuba says its biotech industry discovered and has been testing for rheumatoid arthritis in Phase II clinical trials.

Scientists caution that large placebo-controlled studies are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of these drugs for treating COVID-19.

However, Cuba’s experimental treatments have helped it achieve an overall COVID-19 death rate of 4.2%, compared with the regional and global averages of 5.9% and 6.6%, respectively, health authorities say.

Fatality rates depend on many variables, including the rate of testing, quality of healthcare systems, and age and underlying health condition of the population.

Official data suggests that Cuba, with universal healthcare and a well-staffed care system, has done well in containing its outbreak. It has registered less than 20 cases per day over the past week, down from a peak of 50 to 60 in mid-April. According to Worldometers, Cuba has reported 1.941 cases for a population of 11 million and 82 death.

cuba introduces two drugs curbing death toll of coronavirus
People line up to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease in downtown Havana, Cuba, April 3, 2020. Photo: Reuters.

According to theconversation, Swift action helped Cuba contain its outbreak. A “prevention and control plan” was prepared in January 2020, included training medical staff, preparing medical and quarantine facilities, and informing the public (including tourism workers) about symptoms and precautions

Besides, after closing borders, schools and public transportation in March, Cuba urged residents to stay home, made wearing of masks obligatory, and employed effective contact tracing to curb the virus spread.

The two drugs introduced include itolizumab - a monoclonal antibody produced in Cuba and elsewhere, and a peptide that Cuba says its biotech industry discovered and has been testing for rheumatoid arthritis in Phase II clinical trials.
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