Irina Echarry

Havana Pharmacy.

As a result of a severe case of anemia that I was discovered to have, I’ve been forced to make drastic changes in my lifestyle. These relate, for example, to my eating schedule and having to consume certain foods in special ways; but also to my having to take specific medicines to increase the amount of iron in my body.

That’s easy to say, but experience demonstrates that the task is extremely complicated. My medical care has been free and quick. Some medicines I’ve been able to buy easily at the pharmacy, but to acquire others I’ve had to turn to the black market.

But as many people agree, in Cuba there’s alternative medicine for anemia, and its quality has been demonstrated. Therefore I threw myself into the task of reinforcing my treatment by raising my hemoglobin level rapidly.

It’s true that Cuban laboratories like Labiofan, BioCen or Genix market truly nutritious products such as Trofin, Ferrical and Spirulina.

Ferrical is sold for 30 Cuban pesos (about $1.20 USD), but you can rarely get it in pharmacies, unless you go to Ojo de Agua. They make the medicine there but to buy it you have to show the papers that indicate you have anemia, meaning that preventive treatment cannot be rendered.

Trofin and Spirulina are a little more difficult to acquire since they’re only sold in hard currency CUCs. For Trofin they use cow’s blood, hydrolyzed proteins and bee honey. This magnificent anti-anemic, produced completely in Cuba, supplies iron to the body and doesn’t produce adverse reactions – except to the pocket: it costs 9.60 CUCs (US $10.60). They tell me though that pregnant women receive it free in maternal homes, as do people suffering from HIV.

Spirulina is an alga with an impressive concentration of nutrients. It proliferates in warm waters and in our country it’s plentiful. There has been an entire revolution with its discovery since it provides significant quantities of proteins, especially Vitamin B12. A flask with 70 pills is sold for 5 CUCs and the recommended daily dose is six pills – thus to take if for a month costs well over half the average wage here.

I have no idea or information about how much the government spends on the production of those medicines. However, keeping in mind the poor nourishment here on the island, some solution should be sought so that ordinary Cubans (those who aren’t pregnant and don’t have HIV) can acquire them at less onerous prices.

This is to say that sick citizens shouldn’t have to pay for a Cuban product at the same price as a foreigner who comes here on a visit. Is something like that possible?


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

2 thoughts on “The High Prices of Cuban Medicines

  • Although I do get the idea behind this article, if you’re in dire straits maybe you should contact Genix directly and get some spirulina as powder rather than pills. The processing cost is pretty high and would easily amount to 20% of the 5 CUC retail price given Cuba realities. Add to that the nice and fancy packaging for foreigners and you just doubled the price. You also have to remove the retailer’s margin (a whopping 40% for that kind of product in France – no idea how State-owned entreprises manage that in Cuba). Taking everything into account, I’m pretty sure that you could “resolver” some high-iron spirulina powder for a few days of wage a month or less. Still a lot, and you have to ride all but better than nothing! Once you reach that point, don’t forget to get the most out of your spirulina by taking it with a source of vitamin C. Hope that helps 😉

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