March 13, 2015
Cuban drug to be introduced to treat diabetic foot ulcers

It is expected that fewer amputations will take place here, with the introduction to St Vincent and the Grenadines of a drug that treats diabetic foot ulcers.

This week, health officials spoke about the introduction of Heberprot-P, a drug developed by scientists at the Centre {{more}}for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba as a cure for diabetic foot ulcers.

Bary Aussi, consultant general surgeon at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, told reporters on Tuesday that once Heberprot-P is introduced, the amputation rate here will be reduced and thus the quality of life for the patient will be improved immensely.

“The product contains epidermal growth factor to be applied by intra-lesional injections, directly in the wound site. It has been found to promote granulation and healing in advanced diabetic foot ulcers,” the surgeon explained.

“As of July 2012, China started advanced stage three test of the drug, along with colleagues in 100 hospitals throughout the European Union. These trials are the first time Cuban scientists have undertaken advanced trials in developed countries. The drug has seen successful use in Algeria, where at least 700 patients with diabetes could avoid amputations and another 3,000 cases of gangrene have been treated.”

Aussi added that the drug is currently being used in a number of countries worldwide and has worked for most of the persons that have used it.

“It worked for more than 80 per cent of the people. That means that there are a 20 per cent of the people, it didn’t work for them. So, it is not a magic medication. Not for everybody. This medication, they need to select the patients who can benefit from it. It decreases the amount of amputations. It decreases the amount of hospitalization, but we don’t say that it is a cure,” he stressed.

Levi Walker, chief pharmacist, said that although there are a number of choices to treat diabetes, the problem arises when a patient develops a diabetic foot ulcer.

Walker expressed belief that Heberprot-P will bring about a revolution in the treatment of these ulcers and so will fill the gap where traditional surgical and medical procedures have not been able to.

“The pharmaceutical department right now, I think that we are elated to know that this option will be one that we can grasp and it certainly will make a difference in the way we manage … diabetic foot ulcers. The profile on the drug is pretty good. The success rate is impressive and the documented side effects are basically minimal,” he said.

According to the chief pharmacist, the only challenge with the introduction of this drug lies with the fact that it has only been in use for the past seven years; therefore there is no evidence about its long-term effects.

According to non-communicable disease coordinator in the Ministry of Health Beverly Liverpool, a total of 434 cases of amputations occurred in the 2008-2012 period in this country, as a result of diabetes.

“Chronic non-communicable diseases accounts for more deaths in St Vincent and the Grenadines than all other causes combined,” Liverpool said.

“Chronic non-communicable diseases account for 65 per cent of all visits to primary health care facilities. Diabetes is ranked as the third leading cause of death between 2009 to 2013.”

It is expected that Cuban health specialists will arrive in St Vincent and the Grenadines next week Wednesday to carry out assessments to determine the need for the drug in this country.(BK)