Medicine Shortage for Cubans

Isbel Díaz Torres

Havana Pharmacy.

HAVANA TIMES, Mar 27 – The Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) informed in early March on a coming medicine shortage in Cuba.

A list was published in Briefing Note No. 3/2012, which refers to the basic drugs usually sold by the state pharmacies that could be lacking.  Likewise, a shortage of other less common drugs was not ruled out.

The following is the list (in Spanish):

Ácido poliacrílico 2 mg gel oftálmico /10 g
Alcohol etílico 96 % ampolleta/10 mL
Ampicilina 1 g bulbo
Aztreonam 1 g bulbo
Buscapina 20 mg/mL ampolleta
Captopril 25 mg tableta
Carboplatino 150 y 450 mg bulbo
Ciclosporina A100 mg/mL frasco 50 mL
Clindamicina 600 mg ampolleta / 4 mL
Clobazam 20 mg tableta
Clorpromacina 25 mg ampolleta
Cromoglicato disódico aerosol presurizado 5mg/dosis x112 aplic.
Dacarbazina 200 mg bulbo
Dihidroergotamina 1 mg /1 mL ampolleta
Dinitrato de isosorbide 10 mg tableta
Dipirona 300 mg tableta
Dopamina 50 mg ampolleta
Etopósido bulbo
Fenitoína sódica 250 mg bulbo
Fluconazol 2 mg/ mL bulbo
Flunitrazepam 2 mg ampolleta
Fluorometalona 1 mg + tetrizolina 0.25 col
Gelatina liquida 4 %, 500 mL bolsa (gelafusin)
Goserelina 10,8 mg amp
Hidróxido de aluminio 500 mg tableta
Imipramina 25 mg ampolleta
Iopramida 300 mg / 20 mL bulbo y 370 mg / 100 mL bulbo
Isoflurano 100 % sol 250 mL fco
Ketamina 10 y 50 mg/mL bulbo
L-asparginasa 5000 U bulbo
Lamotrigina 100 mg tableta
Levamisol 150 mg tableta
Levodopa 250 mg +carbidopa 25 mg tableta
Mandelato de metenamina (mandelamina) 500 mg tabletas revestidas.
Mebendazol 100 mg tableta
Meclozina 25 mg tableta
Medazepam 10 mg tableta
Menadiona ampolleta 2 mg/mL ampolleta (Vitamina K3) y menadiona ampolleta 25 mg/mL
Metilprednisolona 40 mg/2 mL ampolleta
Meropenem 0.5 mg
Miconazol 2 % crema 25 g.
Mitomicin C 10 mg ampolleta
Neobatin ungüento tubo  25 mg
Nitrofurantoína 100 mg tableta
Nitroprusiato de Sodio 20 mg/mL ampolleta
Pamidronato 90 mg bulbo
Piridostigmina 60 mg tableta
Piroxicam 20 mg supositorios
Polidocanol 0.5 % 20 mL y 3 % 20 mL
Prednisolona 0.5 % colirio.
Progesterona 50 mg ampolleta
Progesterona depósito ampolleta 250 mg/1mL
Propofol 1 % ampolleta
Rifamicina 250 mg ampolleta
Sales biliares 65 mg tableta
Sucralfato 1 g tableta
Testosterona de depósito 100 mg ampolleta
Testosterona 25mg/mL ampolleta
Tianeptina 12.5 mg tableta
Toxina botulínica bulbo
Trastuzumab 150 mg bulbo
Valproato de sodio 500 mg tableta
Vigabatrina 500 mgtableta
Vitaminas hidrosolubles y liposolubles inyectable bulbo (Cernevit)

The note also provides treatment alternatives as well as observations on when the substitute does not occupy the same “therapeutic function” as the missing drug.

But some medications have no substitute available on the island. Such is the case of ethyl alcohol bulbs, the bulbs of botulinum toxin, the vials of cyclosporine, tablets of bile salts and the flasks of Polidocanol and Tracutil.

This is a sensitive area where the US blockade becomes more evident to Cubans. However, it is unknown to what extent the situation is actually created by the blockade and what responsibility rests on the Cuban government.

The presence of imports in hard currency stores, some even coming from US corporations like Coca Cola and cigarette producers, makes it more difficult to understand that there is no ampicillin bulbs in pharmacies on the island.

Without the population knowing it, the reduction of some health services announced last year by the Public Health Ministry may have reached the point of cutting the national budget for purchase of essential drugs.

The situation is further compounded by the fact that the distribution of drugs and services is not strictly the same in all institutions of the country, and that some of them are sold on the black market, sometimes by doctors and pharmacists.

Anyway, for those from abroad who help out their relatives on the island, it is helpful to understand these shortcomings, to be more accurate in the aid they send.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

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One thought on “Medicine Shortage for Cubans

  • There is an inconsistency in the oft-used excuse that the US embargo against Cuba is the source of all that ails Cuba. I’ll explain: if tomorrow there was suddenly no embargo. This is to say, all medicines listed above produced in the US would be available for purchase by the Cuban government. Would all the medicines now be available to all Cubans? Are we believe that Cuba is sitting around with unspent US dollars ready to buy medicine but can not do so solely because of the embargo? I would like to know which is the bigger obstacle, the lack of hard currency or the embargo? I submit that the biggest problem facing Cuba is worker productivity. Believe me if Cuba had the cash to buy everything they needed, American businesses would find a way to sell it to them, embargo or no embargo.

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