Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Why Jamaica rejected Cuban COVID-19 drug

Published:Friday | April 17, 2020 | 12:20 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie has said that the Government’s decision to reject the use of the Cuban antiviral drug Interferon Alpha 2B to treat persons battling COVID-19 at this time was made after consultations with experts in the public-health sector.

She told the Special Select Committee on Public Health discussing developments in relation to the coronavirus pandemic yesterday that the side-effects profile of the drug as demonstrated in trials with other diseases include fever, diarrhoea, myalgia, depression, and deaths.

The CMO was responding to questions as committee members met via an online platform as part of efforts to observe physical-distancing protocols in the wake of COVID-19.

INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

A clinical working group comprising pulmonologists, anaesthesiologists, paediatricians, critical-care specialists, emergency-room physicians, pharmacists, standards and regulations personnel, among others, reportedly reviewed available material on Interferon Alpha 2B and decided against its use.

Further, Bisasor-McKenzie said that there was insufficient evidence to support the unreserved use of the drug at this time.

She said that the administration of the drug requires nebulisation, which is aerosol-generating and, therefore, not recommended for patients suspected of or confirmed for COVID-19.

“Based on these, I think that they did take a lot of time to consider it, and based on the information that is available at this time, they have made this recommendation that I support,” the CMO added.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said that the ministry had completed its assessment of the antiviral drug, and given that it had not been approved globally, the decision was made not to use it in Jamaica at this time.

“It is not that we have not looked at it. As you know, we have been collaborating with the Cuban government in several ways, and we are very appreciative in terms of the clinical capacity that has been added to our front line against COVID,” Tufton said on Wednesday.

The antiviral drug is one of several being used by the Chinese to fight the new coronavirus and has reportedly proven effective for viruses with characteristics similar to those of COVID-19.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com