U.S. Government seeks “common ground” to work with Cuba on healthcare

HAVANA, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell on Friday said that Washington aims to build up its collaboration with Cuba in the health sector by finding “common ground and topics” to work on.

At a press conference in Havana, Burwell said progress could be made in bilateral healthcare cooperation as this sector uniquely aligns the interests of both nations.

“The objective is to build the relationship and the muscle for progress on issues where we share common ground and we are focused on topics where there is clear bilateral alignment,” she said.

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Burwell referred to a new executive order signed last week by U.S. President Barack Obama that will allow Cuban pharmaceutical products to be commercialized in the United States, once they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cuban Public Health Minister Roberto Morales (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell (L), after signing a memorandum of understanding, in Havana, Cuba, on Oct. 20, 2016. (Xinhua/Pool)

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“The guidance we put out regarding Cuban pharmaceutical products will allow us to move forward for their future use in the U.S. and we are optimistic in the steps that we have taken because they will facilitate other joint research that can bring benefits to both sides,” she added.

The U.S. government official said the most important change is the possibility to expand bilateral health cooperation whether on cancer or any other issues.

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“I think this is a very big difference that opens the door for more progress,” she said.

Burwell said she discussed the U.S. embargo on the island with Cuban health officials, but that the Obama administration is focused on working within the current rules to move forward and expand collaboration.

On Thursday, Havana and Washington signed an agreement to work together on cancer research, monitoring, detection and control.