The Sordid, Disturbing History of Cuba’s Lung Cancer Vaccine and Big Pharma

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Photo by euthman

Back in December of 2014, President Barack Obama announced that we were descending upon a new relationship with the long time estranged country of Cuba. Obama was clearly using this as a way to seal some perception of accomplishments into the end of his tenure. But the announcement wasn’t fully well received. Many current Cuban-Americans don’t share the sentiment that the new and friendly relationship with the island Country is a win for anyone. The country has a long list of abuses and its people live an incredibly subjugated life. Cuban laws do not allow for freedom of expression, assembly or press. And the nation consistently imprisons its citizens for arbitrary reasons.

But with one American handshake, and all of those atrocities seemed to wash by the wayside. Obama stood as king of the world, attempting to salvage a tumultuous Presidency. But what also went on in the background, a much less discussed facet of the communications between the U.S. and Cuba, might have been a bit more interesting and compelling. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Cuba in April of 2015. During this visit, it is said that New York’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Havana’s Center of Molecular Immunology made a deal with Cuba to get the “secret” details of their lung cancer vaccine (CimaVax EGF). According to their own website.

Cuba’s high-quality biotech sector is thriving, led in part by the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana. I visited the CIM in April 2015 as part of a group that included Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s (RPCI) President and CEOCandace Johnson, PhD, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Following face-to-face meetings with CIM representatives and researchers, an agreement was finalized to bring their lung cancer vaccine, CimaVax, to RPCI and the United States for clinical testing and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection.


Officials at Roswell Park told the Huffington Post that they have their eyes on, in fact, 20 vaccine formulas.

For now, Lee says the researchers at Roswell Park have their eyes trained on about 20 cancer treatment and prevention technologies in Cuba — including another lung cancer vaccine called racotumomab that the group hopes to study in clinical trials at Roswell.

Cuba’s mainstay lung cancer vaccine is available for free to the people, it cost $1 to produce. Cuba is a country in dire need of solutions to manage lung cancer, due to the high volume of smokers (it is a cigar capitol). We have our opinion on the vaccine industry, we’ve clearly stated that we believe it to be filled with corruption and failure. But what if this vaccine worked? Allow me to digress slightly. What if a vaccine, which made very little in profit, worked as it is supposed to work by either curing or increasing the life expectancy of the patient? What if the vaccine did two surprising things: It lowered the amount of lung cancer. It replaced a need for Chemotherapy and radiation?

This, my friends, is where we get into some murky waters. The vaccine industry, ran by pharmaceutical companies, pushes vaccines. But they don’t push vaccines that don’t drive revenue. Instead they push vaccines which make them ungodly rich. They create pockets of needs for their revenue driven concoctions, they lobby politicians, they drive legislation, and in many cases, they force their product on the people.

Cuba claims two clinical trials have showed that their lung cancer vaccine, CimaVax EGF, works. And that it only costs $1. Forgive me, but IF (and that’s a huge IF) that were true, then wouldn’t pharmaceutical companies have already jumped on this life saving vaccine and pushed it out to the masses? Lung cancer is a big killer in the U.S. Currently, it is treated mostly with chemotherapy. It is a debilitating killer.

So then what is the issue? Enter Ono Pharmaceutical and Aduro Biotech. Both of these pharmaceutical companies have been working on lung cancer vaccines for years. They have both spent “hundreds of millions on development cost.” But wait, you might be asking, if Cuba actually has a solution that is low cost and effective, why on earth would these two pharma companies continue to spend millions on top of millions on their own solutions?

Lung cancer is responsible for 27% of all cancer deaths. It is the leading cause of cancer death. The market is ridiculously huge. Right now, pharmaceutical companies are trying to INCREASE the cost of drugs, not lower them. And their main justification for price hikes? Clinical trials and research (to the tune of hundreds of millions).

So then what will happen to CimaVax EGF? It is most likely to get sentenced to a clinical trial hades. This will be for the sake of increasing the price from the measly $1 mark. It will be done under the guise of FDA regulations. And most importantly, the drug will be kept, by a conniving Pharmaceutical industry, out of the hands of anyone who actually needs it for years.

This isn’t me saying the vaccine works, this is me saying that the vaccine might work and might be economical, and that concept is one that the Pharmaceutical company isn’t likely to tolerate.