July 20, 2016

Members of Congress Call for Greater U.S.-Cuba Health Cooperation to Improve Health of American Families

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Karen Bass led their colleagues in a letter requesting executive action to enhance health cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba.

The letter reads: “Physicians and their patients are frustrated that such potentially lifesaving treatments are entangled in the politics of the embargo debate and accompanying bureaucracy. This results in a highly complex dual-license approval process that places the Department of the Treasury, rather than the FDA, as the final decision-maker on what is available to U.S. physicians and their patients when it comes to Cuban medical products.”

For example, a Cuban biotech company has developed a proven treatment that dramatically reduces the risk of amputation from diabetic foot ulcers by more than seventy percent. Diabetic foot ulcers affect an estimated 15 percent of people living with diabetes. This condition precedes 85 percent of all diabetes-related amputation and the direct medical costs of treating diabetic foot ulcers total more than $50 billion a year. This treatment is currently available in 20 countries but it remains unavailable to Americans.

“For too long, our counterproductive, isolationist policies have prevented Americans from obtaining the best possible healthcare and treatment,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “As we work to open a new chapter in US-Cuba relations, we must start by immediately expanding access to groundbreaking medical advances. It’s simply wrong to restrict Americans from accessing medical advance just because they were developed in Cuba.”

“Months ago, President Obama made significant strides in normalizing our diplomatic relations with Cuba. This has opened up a newfound shared knowledge, which will only serve to benefit the people of the U.S. and the rest of the world, while empowering the people of Cuba and the country’s nascent private sector,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass. “Supporting this innovative Cuban-developed diabetes treatment for use in the United States would be yet another step toward allowing a free flow of ideas and significant medical breakthroughs that could impact millions. We urge the Administration to get rid of the excessive red tape involved in approving Heberprot-P, and similar lifesaving treatments, so that amputations from diabetes is a thing of the past.”

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Democrat Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity.