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Cuba looks to begin trials of new neuroprotective treatment for Alzheimer’s

Published on 16/05/17 at 09:31am

The health care system in Cuba is widely held up to be a model of innovation; despite severe economic  sanctions for much of its recent history, it has kept up with ‘developed nations’ medical standards, as well as surpassing them in some areas. The WHO recognised this in a 2014 visit by its Director-General, Margaret Chan, who commented that “Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go”.

When Cuba announces a new innovation in medicine, it carries more significance than any other nation of relative size. Only last year, a vaccine for lung cancer that showed benefits in some patients and had been in use in the country since 2011 was allowed through to testing by the FDA while clinical trials for a vaccine for HIV was also begun this year.

This is relevant because Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology has announced that it will be putting through an Alzheimer’s treatment through clinical testing, subject to approval by the Center for Drug Control Equipment and Medical Devices.

The drug, NeuroEpo, has been developed in Cuba by its own researchers and has shown benefits in studies that show it can slow disease progression.

"Alzheimer's disease is caused by the deposition of abnormal proteins (p-tau and b-Amyloid42) in our brains. The use of NeuroEpo has not demonstrated that it can eliminate these proteins, but due to its neuroprotective effect we hope to be able to delay the deposition of the same, thus reducing the rate of progression of the disease and the severity of its clinical manifestations. Numerous international and national experts have pointed out that delaying the disease would significantly reduce the number of people with Alzheimer's disease as well as the economic and social costs associated with the disease", Dr Jorge Guerra told Granma, the official newspaper of Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

Cuba is particularly concerned about treating Alzheimer’s disease, as it currently estimates that 10.2% of people aged 65 and over suffer from dementia. It has the highest rates of dementia in the whole of Latin America and this is predicted to continue to rise. This is a common theme across all nations with an ageing population and so it is certain that there will be more than a few keeping an eye on how the trial progresses in Cuba.

Ben Hargreaves

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