"Within a few weeks" the United States may offer to let Cuba buy 22 embargoed drugs and medicines are part of "increasing cooperation" with that nation in health, Dr. Peter Bourne, special assistant to President Carter, said yesterday.
Bourne also disclosed that he and Dr. Julius Richmond - surgeon general and assistant secretarp of health, education and welfare - will visit Cuba soon to plan other efforts, including exchanges of health workers for training.
"The program will by no means be a one-way street," he said. "We've got something to learn from the Cubans. They've developed a highly effective health delivery system to guarantee basic care to everyone."
Teams of health workers provide care to Cubans at their jobs and homes as well as at public clinics. The system has been widely praised by American protessors of public health and other experts who have visited there. But Bourne's praise may be the first by so high-placed an American official.
The Carter administration wants to use cooperation in health "as a leading edge" toward broader relations in general with Cuba, Bourne said.
In an address Monday night to the American Public Health Association and in an interview, he said President Carter wants to use health and humanitarianism to try to open relations with several of the 14 nations with which the United States has no diplomatic ties.
He said he will soon visit Iraq, fol-cause of "sensitive" talk now going on with some of them.
The United States and the People's Republic of China are discussing an "extensive" program in health, going for beyond the tourist-style exchange visits that American and Chinese delegations have been making so far, he reported.
lowing up a late-1976 trip, to arrange "a broad exchange program" that will include training Iraqi health workers here.
"What we're going to do with Cuba exemplifies what we're trying to do with many countries," he said. "We want to use health and humanitarian areas to transcend political problems, and try to ease those problems too."
Bourne was visited at the White House in late September, he disclosed, by Dr. Jose Butierrez-Muniz, Cuban health minister, who was here for a Pan American Health Organization meeting.
Bourne said the cabinet minister gave him a list of drugs manufactured only in the United States that Cuba would like to buy. The list includes the anti-cancer drug, methotrexate: Dilantin, and anti-convulsive drug used in epilepsy, and the antibiotic actinomycin.
Cuba's trade minister has said Havana wants trade restrictions ended on everything, not on only a few products like drugs. But "I'm optimistic on our offering the drugs." Bourne said, and "I think they'll accept - certainly their health ministry would like to do so."
Bourne said the Cubans also want access to American medical journals and medical libraries, including computer system that speedily comb the medical literature for facts.
"Right now," Bourne said, "their doctors publish articles in American journals, then can't get the journals."