Cuba has always had a very individualistic– and on the whole very successful – approach to public and population health. The hard line socialist nature of their politics, especially in early days after the revolution, resulted in very high levels of education and medical care – but also in isolation from much of the developed world. They therefore had only limited money to buy, and limited access to, expensive drugs and were less able to take part in expensive vaccination programmes. (If you are interested there is an interesting WHO report, Cuban experience with local production of medicines, technology transfer and improving access to health produced in 2015 which covers their healthcare provision.)
Homeopathic remedies, however, could be produced at minimal cost and locally and therefore became, and have remained, an important element in delivered Cuban healthcare.
There is a great dearth of research around homeopathic interventions. However, there are two trials in which homeopathic treatment appears to have had a very positive outcome. The first was an outbreak of epidemic neuropathy in 1992-3 (see details here on Researchgate). The second rather better known was in the control of Leptospirosis a bacterial infection most common in tropical areas of the world after heavy rainfall. It causes around 60,000 deaths a year from a million severe cases of infection and so far it has not proved possible to develop a successful vaccine to combat it.
In 2007 a large scale prophylactic homeopathic intervention was undertaken in Cuba, then facing an epidemic outbreak of the disease, using a formulation prepared from dilutions of four circulating strains of Leptospirosis. This formulation was administered orally to 2.3 million persons at high risk from the epidemic in a region affected by natural disasters which included flooding. The homeoprophylactic approach appeared to lead to a large reduction in disease incidence and good control of the epidemic. (See this report.)
In 2014 this data was re-evaluated and the researchers concluded that their results supported ‘the previous conclusions that homoeoprophylaxis can be used to effectively immunize people against targeted infectious diseases such as leptospirosis’. It has continued to be used as such since.
Although the Cubans have not developed a specific homeopathic treatment for COVID19 they are rolling out PrevengHo Vir, a remedy that is known to boost the immune system. Currently it is being distributed to old people’s homes, maternity wards and areas with high numbers of confirmed cases, and the plan is to provide it to the rest of the population as soon as possible. The main component of PrevengHo Vir is Anas Barbariae which homeopaths deem effective in the treatment of influenza.
There have been no studies on the efficacy or potential risks of PrevengHo Vir but Diadelis Ramírez Figueredo, a researcher at Cecmed – the body that regulates medicine in Cuba – points out that ‘this is not a product for therapeutic use. In other words, its prescription is not for the treatment of Covid-19 but for the support of the immune system.’ Since COVID 19 is known to attack the immune system, this seems a reasonable preventative measure to take in a coronavirus epidemic.
For more detail on this see this article in Global Voices Latin America which, while following the conventional line that homeopathy should not be used to treat potentially fatal illnesses (such as COVID), does appear to endorse its use for immune system support. Maybe we could do worse than to follow the Cuban example?