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Cut off your foot to spite your face…

11 November 2013

In the politicized shouting match over changes in U.S. health-care (or rather, how to pay for health care), one issue that has been largely overlooked is avoiding unnecessary and debilitating medical procedures which could be treated more effectively if not for political issues.

Heberprot-B, widely used to treat diabetic ulcers has dramatically lowered the need for amputations… reportedly allowing up to 70 percent of ulcers to be treated at primary care clinics, and showing promise as one of the most effective (and inexpensive) ways to avoid one of the worst … and most common… side-effects of diabetes.

How To Prevent The Onset Of Diabetic Foot UlcersDiabetic foot ulcers are caused by complications of diabetes on the nerve and / or blood vessels. Nerve damage from diabetes causes loss of sensation in the feet. This condition is known as peripheral neuropathy. The nerves that carry pain sensations normally to the brain of the foot is not functioning properly. Diabetics can suffer injuries due to stepping on something, wearing tight shoes, or stumble without knowing it until days or weeks.

Diabetic foot ulcers can vary from a kind of shallow red crater that involves only the skin surface to very deep and broad that involve tendons, bones and other deep structures. In advanced stages, ulcers can develop into an abscess (pus pocket), spreading infection of the skin and underlying fat (cellulitis), bone infection (osteomyelitis) or gangrene. Gangrene is dark and dead tissue caused by poor blood flow.

Over a 100,000 patients have been treated with Herberprot-B world-wide.  But not in the United States.

There are three major impediments to making Herboprot-B available in the United States, or even testing the drug:  South Florida congressional representatives Mario Diaz-Balart,  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (both Republican from Miami) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (a Democrat also representing the Miami area). There’s no question that the drug might be a benefit to diabetics, but … in the words of Congressman Diaz-Balart, “We’re dealing with a state sponsor of terrorism that, at this time, is holding an American hostage…” the so-called “hostage” being the American spy, Alan Gross, who received a particularly lenient sentence in consideration of his health.  He’s a diabetic!

While, of course, being the United States, there’s a corporate lobbying effort by one pharmaceutical company (that would substantially raise the price over what it’s sold for in most countries), the surprising thing is that is is another Miami congressman, Joe Garcia who is pushing for a bill to permit … not the importation… but testing Heberprot-B in the United States.

Something of a bellwether of change in Florida politics, Garcia is a first generation Cuban-American (his parents fled the Revolution, but he was born in the United States), who, although a past president of the often reactionary Cuban American National Foundation is a “liberal”  Democrat , as supposedly, so is Wasserman-Schultz.  Perhaps being Cuban-American, he’s less afraid of the old geezers… in Miami or in Havana.

And his issue has … legs.

Amisad Phillipines-Cuba Friendship Association: “Heberprot-P, a unique drug developed in Cuba for patients with diabetic foot ulcers

Alberto Buitre:  “Cuba: Heberprot-B y el satánico Joe García

Randal C. Archibold, New York Times: “Cuba Gives 15-Year Prison Term to American” (12 March 2011)

Havana Journal: “Congressman supports efforts to bring Cuban diabetes medicine Heberprot-B to US

Healthy Logica: “How To Prevent The Onset Of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

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