[News] Repercussions of the US blockade on the health care sector in Cuba

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 10 19:41:22 EDT 2007


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Press Release 1


0th October, 2007


Repercussions of the US blockade on the healthcare sector in Cuba

The most vulnerable sectors to the negative 
impact of the US blockade have been food and 
healthcare, having a direct impact on the quality of life of all Cubans.

The vulnerable healthcare sector has been 
severely affected. During the past year the 
damage to the Cuban health service caused by the 
blockade in the period covered by this report is 
estimated at over 30 million dollars.

Medical institutions that provide treatment free 
of charge to the entire population have been 
affected in several departments: emergency 
services, care of critically ill, surgical units 
and other specialized services (adult and 
pediatric), care of the mother-to-be, due to lack 
of access to latest-generation diagnostic aids 
and medication, mostly produced in the United 
States. Another factor is reduced ability to 
obtain 'Made in USA' consumables, spare parts and 
essential equipment. For the same reason, health 
promotion and disease prevention initiatives have 
been held back, suffice it to mention only a few examples:

·          Cuba's Ramón Pando Ferrer 
ophthalmology institute was unable to acquire 
equipment needed for studying the retina, 
marketed by Humphreys-Zeiss, and the drug 
Visudyne, used to treat macular degeneration (a 
medical condition that can result in blindness) 
among the elderly and marketed by Novartis. Both 
companies, being American-owned and not being 
licensed for the purpose by the US Treasury 
Department, expressed they were unable to export 
to Cuba. Studies of the retinas of the patients 
concerned were seriously affected, causing delays 
in decisions as to the therapy needed.

·          Other areas of Cuban medicine affected 
by the blockade include anaesthesia of children 
undergoing surgery. Cuba is cannot acquire the 
Sevoflurane inhalatory anaesthetic, patented with 
the trade name 'Sevorane', which has become the 
standard drug for administering general  anaesthesia to  children.     The

patent is owned by Abbot Laboratories, a US 
concern which, in compliance with the sanctions 
legislation, does not sell to Cuba. Cuba has no 
alternative but to use inferior substitutes, 
purchased in more remote markets at, consequently, higher cost.

·          For the same reason, the US Saint-Jude 
firm suspended, among others,  its sales of 
prosthetic valves - cheaper and better quality - 
to the William Soler paediatric heart hospital. 
The patients affected are children with cardiac 
arrhythmia who need pacemakers that were obtained via this route.

·          US pressure has induced other firms to 
suspend sales to Cuban concerns, and in other 
cases involved the cancellation of licences. This 
happened in the case of Med Tronic, which was 
compelled to stop selling external pacemakers to 
Cuba, affecting children suffering from 
congenital or acquired arrhythmia who need this device.

·          A complex situation as regards 
disease-vector control in Cuba at the end of 2006 
called for urgent purchases at a higher cost than 
would have been incurred if these supplies could 
have been sourced in the US market. The extra 
cost in terms of higher prices and increased 
freight charges totalled around $845,000 dollars.

The following are some of the many cases in the 
public-health sector that illustrate the 
extraterritorial nature of the sanctions:

·          Following its acquisition by America's 
General Electric, the Finnish firm Datex-Ohmeda, 
manufacturer of excellent anaesthesia and 
multi-purpose monitoring equipment, with which 
Cuba maintained business relations, announced 
that it was banned from supplying equipment or 
spare parts to Cuba, on pain of prosecution by the US Department of Justice.

·          Cuba was prohibited from obtaining 
equipment and other products normally purchased 
by our Oncology & Radiology Institute from the 
regional division of Merck tasked with analytical 
chemistry, when it was absorbed by a US 
corporation. The results included repercussions on cancer and other patients.


New York, 10 October 2007





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