U.S. and Cuban healthcare providers could benefit from renewed U.S.-Cuban relations announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama, industry experts said. U.S. devicemakers, in particular, could soon have access to a new market hungry for its products.
“My heart goes out to the Cuban physicians that are down there because they are extremely well-trained and have no access to what they need,” said Dr. Pedro Jose Greer Jr., a Cuban-American who is associate dean for community engagement at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University.
Cuban doctors don't need better training, they need better technology and hospitals that aren't going bankrupt, Greer said. With renewed relations between the two countries, Greer is hopeful that U.S. devicemakers and pharmaceutical companies will be able to sell their coveted products in Cuba.
But it isn't just Cuban patients that stand to benefit. U.S. doctors can learn from the country's exemplary approach to primary care, Greer said. Loosened restrictions could allow Cuba's state-run vaccine industry to ship more of their high-quality products to the United States, where they could be distributed to underserved populations at cheaper prices than American vaccines, he said.
Though a meningococcal vaccine from Cuba is available for treatment in the U.S., few other drugs are, said Mavis Anderson, an expert in U.S. Cuba-relations and a senior associate with the Latin America Working Group, a foreign policy activist organization. Activists have been trying to get permission to bring several different Cuban drugs to the U.S., including innovative diabetes medication and several promising cancer drugs.
Cuban doctors lack access to most American pharmaceutical products and suffer particularly from not being able to obtain third-generation antibiotics, because most are made by U.S. companies or their subsidiaries, Anderson said.