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Cuban 'scorpion' drug cleared for Jamaica

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 13, 2012    

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MONTHS after Cuban government representatives introduced cancer-fighting drug Vidatox to Jamaican distributors, the item is to be sold here soon.

A team from the Cuban drug company Labiofam is in Jamaica to tie up a deal with a major local distributor, following approval given by the Ministry of Health.

"We are close to signing an agreement with a large distributor," Dr Carmen Morales Paneque, specialist in clinical trials at Labiofam told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

"We registered Vidatox here on June 18, and we have received approval from Jamaica's Ministry of Health so now we are here to sign contracts with that distributor, which I am sure will happen before we leave Jamaica.

"I don't want to disclose the name of that company now, but its representatives will do so at the appropriate time," said Morales Paneque, a gynaecologist, biologist and clinical researcher at the Havana headquartered company, which employs over 4,400 Cubans between its main plant and branches islandwide.

The Ministry of Health disclosed yesterday that it had given approval for the prescription drug to be placed in Jamaican pharmacies.

"The Ministry of Health can confirm that the drug Vidatox has been registered in Jamaica," Stephanie Shaw Smith, the ministry's manager of public relations and communication told the Observer.

"Once a drug is registered and the manufacturer is notified, it can then be placed on the market," she added.

Vidatox, made from the venom of the Rhopalrus Junceus scorpion, which is endemic to Cuba, is already being used in countries of Asia, Europe, North, South and Central America, to help in the fight against various cancers.

A further 70 requests from other countries for the drug to be registered there, have been made, Morales Paneque said.

Cuban authorities say that over 25,000 people from Italy travel to Cuba each year for cancer treatment, which includes the use of Vidatox.

The drug has been used to treat cancer-related ailments among the Cuban population for over 200 years, but has been formally integrated in the Cuban drug culture for about 30 years.

Cuban medical officials have said that the drug is safe, with no side effects and is being used by thousands worldwide to treat cancers including those which affect the cervix, pancreas, prostate, lung, breast, colon, brain, among others.

Extensive research of over 15 years led to Vidatox being developed in a Cuban laboratory, and officials said that they were given enough proof that its anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic properties were as like the rural folk had been saying for several years.

The drug is said to prolong life by destroying cancerous tumours in some cases, reducing pain and boosting the immune system.

The Cuban government has commercialised the project by having scorpion-rearing farms across every province in the island of 12 million inhabitants to meet the growing global demand.

The scorpion grows to an average of four inches in length and the venom may be extracted from it every 21 days.

Inarvis Martinez Monte de Oca, senior official of the marketing and export division of Labiofam, said that there was increasing demand for Vidatox, adding that the Cuban authorities were putting systems in place to deal with it.

Jamaica and the Caribbean, she said, had shown great interest in Vidatox and talks were ongoing with a view to supplying it to various markets.

Cuba is highly respected for its health care.

Hundreds of Jamaican doctors and other medical personnel have been trained in the Socialist country since diplomatic relations were established between both islands in 1973.

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