We call on the authorities to confront the critical medicine shortage
HAVANA TIMES – The enormous crisis caused by the current lack of medicine in Cuba is affecting almost all our people. Essential products for treating chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and nerve disorders are totally missing, or else arrive at the pharmacies in insufficient quantities.
The same is happening with other, equally important medicines such as antibiotics and analgesics. Even needed hospital supplies have become scarce, materials that are essential for surgical interventions and other vital procedures.
On June 21, executives from three Cuban pharmaceutical companies appeared on the television talk show Mesa Redonda [“Round table”]. Directors of BioCubaFarma, FarmaCuba and MedSol all attempted to explain the causes of this situation. Summing up their participation, they said the Cuban bio-pharmaceutical system has centered its efforts on guaranteeing products needed for the COVID-19 protocols and for vaccine development.
Similarly, they detailed the inconveniences caused by the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States. These make the acquisition of technologies, raw materials, reactive substances, diagnostic tools, medications, medical devices, equipment and spare parts nearly impossible.
They also emphasized the obstacles that US pressures have imposed on certain banks, which have been fined for receiving payments from Cuba.
Another cause, though, went unmentioned by the program. That’s the drop in government investment in science and technical innovation. Last year, during the pandemic, this was seventy-two times less than funding allocated to “business services, real estate and rental activity”. The latter includes investment in tourism, despite the considerably reduced demand for that sector.
The immediate effects of such a situation immediately translate into pain that can’t be soothed, uncontrolled illnesses and even the risk of death, or the actual death of patients.
The US authorities should lift their sanctions, but we Cuban citizens can do nothing about that reality, besides expressing our rejection. A large part of the world’s countries, who days previously manifested their opinions in the vote that took place in the UN General Assembly, have been equally unable to influence the situation.
Nonetheless, there are still a few options in the hands of the Cuban government. One is increasing investments in the sector. Another would be facilitating and making more flexible the mechanisms established in Resolutions 72, 131, and 148 of the Ministry of Public Health. These would permit donations of medicine and supplies to enter the country, alleviating in part the dramatic humanitarian situation that is wearing us down.
A more expedited measure – although of lesser scope – could be taken as soon as the epidemiological situation allows. That’s to facilitate the entrance into the country of vaccinated Cuban travelers. They could be required to present documentation of their vaccination status, and to undergo any testing that’s deemed pertinent. These travelers could then be admitted without a lengthy stay in isolation centers. That way, there’d be more people coming in from outside, and, with them, increased access to medications.
The numerous obstacles, restrictions and arbitrary measures suffered by people or institutions that attempt to bring in this type of product through any of the existing routes are well known. More than a few Cubans and foreigners, as well as different organizations, have sent donations to Cuba even though they risk being lost. Many times, the latter occurs when the donations pass through customs, without so much as an explanation.
Mechanisms have been created by those citizens and organizations to be able to deliver the donated products to those who need them when they arrive on the Island. The most difficult part is getting them through Customs, with the restrictions on quantity and type imposed by the Cuban regulations.
Considering all this, we request that President Diaz-Canel, the Ministry of Public Health and Customs facilitate and make more viable the process for allowing the entry of medications and medical supplies into the country. Also, that they work together with the donors, in the process of receipt and distribution. They could participate as one more link in the chain of solidarity instead of being an obstacle.
Doing this doesn’t require any effort on the part of the National Public Health System, but would provide some relief for the people of Cuba. On top of other chronic and growing shortages for more than a year, our people are suffering an increase in illnesses and misery that could cost many lives.