When President Barack Obama put into motion a series of political events that set the stage for improved relations with Cuba, he may also have taken a major step towards reducing the number of diabetic foot amputations in this country.
Every year in the U.S., way too many people (about 73,000!!) lose their feet when untreated or untreatable wounds or ulcers claim healthy tissue as their victim.
So how can improved relations with Cuba help reverse the statistics, allowing more diabetics to avoid amputations? For the past nine years, patients in Cuba have been taking the drug Heberprot-P (developed in that country) to help cure ulcers. Apparently, the medication has made a real impact, helping to prevent a significant number of amputations.
Because the drug was developed in Cuba, American patients might never have been allowed to take Heberprot, but now that the political situation has thawed a bit, doctors in the U.S. are hopeful that the FDA will allow clinical trials of the drug to begin here.
Diabetic wounds can be difficult to heal because of the reduced blood flow and nerve damage many diabetics have in their outer extremities. As a Houston podiatrist, I have many tools in my arsenal designed to treat ulcers, but every wound responds differently to treatment so, in my opinion, you can never have too many effective weapons in the battle against foot loss in this country.
I hope that, in the next few years, we will see a drop in the rates of diabetic foot amputations, thanks not only to the approval of new drugs, but also due to better preventative diabetic foot care.
Be sure and do your part—if you are living with diabetes in Houston, make home foot exams a daily ritual and be sure to maintain regular appointments with a podiatrist like Dr. Andrew Schneider to stop complications before they become too difficult to treat.