Revisiting the Cuban Healthcare Sector

Revisiting the Cuban Healthcare Sector

The death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro is a potential watershed event for the economic course of the island nation. Diplomatic détente between Cuba and the United States was already underway earlier this year when Kalorama Information provided an overview of Cuban biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and medical care. Strengthening ties between U.S. and Cuban organizations have already borne fruit. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first U.S. clinical trial for the Cuban non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) vaccine Cimavax.

Medical research collaboration between the United States and Cuba is significant not only for its impact on patients in both countries, but also its role in priming future business collaboration. Business development, particularly for Cuban biopharma and medical devices, will depend upon the future course of Cuban market reform and trade relations with the United States. The integrity of the United States’ economic embargo against Cuba will be determined by the Trump administration whose posturing already threatens to reinvigorate hard-liners in the Cuban communist party. Party officials have resisted many domestic-facing market reforms out of fear of the rising visibility of economic inequality. With the passing of Fidel Castro, his brother and head of state Raul Castro may be provided the space necessary to implement his desired market reforms. Export-oriented industries such as medical technology and biopharmaceuticals represent ideal targets for reform and development as they avoid the turbulence of consumerism in the low-income country.

Cuba could develop as a key hub in global and regional medical technology markets. The state-run industry already produces many of the medical devices needed in Cuba’s universal healthcare system. Some companies such as the immunoassay manufacturer Tecnosuma are already active in the $2 billion-dollar-plus Latin American IVD market. Cuba offers existing biopharmaceutical facilities for monoclonal antibody production and a large physician labor force. Through a combination of economic and healthcare policies prioritized under the Castro regime and the unrelenting pressure of globalization, Cuba may soon emerge as a significant player in global healthcare industries.

A previous Kalorama Information blog post reviewing healthcare-related Cuban industries can be found here.