Medicine Shortages Continue in Cuba

By Miguel Arias Sanchez

HAVANA TIMES – Supplies of important medicines on the State’s drugstore network have been seriously affected for a good while; but now, you can really feel it.

Many reasons have come to light: shortages of raw materials, packaging, reagents, spare parts for certain machines in factory labs, etc.

They also influence processes that we are familiar with. For example, we all know that most raw materials are manufactured in China and India’s huge factories, and when production takes a hit in one of them, then there are shortages on the global market.

Lots of the time, regular suppliers stop providing these raw materials because it is harder these days to make a bank transaction to make payments and receive revenue that create foreign currency, which is needed to make more raw materials. Cuba is in a very vulnerable position in this circle.

The medicine problem on the island got a lot worse with the pandemic, as it stopped all trade and things that had already been paid for, were now stranded in foreign factories and ports when the borders of these countries closed down.

In addition to this, you have the internal mayhem and poor distribution that characterizes us. 

So, we have had to deal with shortages of over 15 key medicines, which are in high-demand amongst the population, such as antibiotics, antihypertensive drugs, asthma medicine, antiviral drugs, etc.

The Ministry of Public Health and other state-led bodies have responded by saying that they are working non-stop to look for alternatives that will improve the current situation. It should be true, because this is a very sensitive problem. It’s hard to explain to a sick person that their medicine isn’t available, if their life depends on it a lot, or a better quality of life.

People go to line up outside drugstores, early in the morning, with the hope that they will find the medicine they need; but this doesn’t happen, a lot of the time. This is why we are outraged when we see some unprincipled people selling these medicines at twice or three times the asking price on the public network, without the slightest bit of empathy, or contemplating the fact that many people don’t have the financial means to buy them at this price.

In summary, if everybody that stands in the way of medicines reaching their final destination, the sick –on time and for the lowest price—, stopped to really think about how these people’s lives are on the line, then it would be a different story.

Miguel Arias

Miguel Arias Sánchez: I was born in Regla in 1949. That’s where I went to elementary and high school. Afterwards I took courses to be a teacher and did that for several years. I did my military service and as soon as I got out I studied formally to be a teacher graduating at the University of Havana. I taught in classrooms for nearly 20 years. I had the opportunity to travel and see another reality. I returned and am currently doing different self-employed activities.

3 thoughts on “Medicine Shortages Continue in Cuba

  • The world at large chooses to not recognize that the single largest contributor to public health in Africa is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Which includes funding from Warren Buffett) When did Cuba last recognize the initiatives of Doctors without Borders?

  • Carlyle, I can give you one example of where the Cuban medical brigades get their medicines while on contract in foreign countries. During the Ebola crisis, Cuban doctors used PPEs (personal protective equipment) supplied by the US. In fact, most of their supplies were either directly provided by the US or indirectly by the United Nations. The French were also large contributors. Perhaps you may remember this incident which occurred during that crisis. Cuban medical staff were often compelled to stage propaganda photos in the midst of providing much appreciated medical services. Their protective gowns conspicuously showed USAID insignia in the photos. As a result, where possible, most of the photos that the Castro dictatorship published had been photoshopped. If US government markings could not be removed the photos were not used.

  • The shortage of major drugs in Cuba has existed for many years – by choice of the Castro regime. It is one of the many frustrations suffered by doctors in Cuba. I recall six years ago, a doctor in our local hospital expressing his frustration at being unable to obtain the drug which my condition at that time required. He even named it, and it was the one prescribed by my own Doctor when I temporarily returned from Cuba.

    One wonders how and where the Cuban medical “brigades” obtain drugs when marketing medical services in other countries? Maybe, like the newly introduced dollar shops where ample supplies of food suddenly appeared, the Castro regime also has drugs squirreled away for those more deserving than the Cuban “mass”.

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