Venezuelan Clinics and Their Passion for ‘Piroxicam’

By Wilson Moreno

Wilson-MorenoHAVANA TIMES — One of the major changes was the arrival of the “Barrio Adentro” health care program, which took the form of CDIs (Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers). These centers are located in different areas of the country, particularly in rural communities far from hospitals and other health care facilities.

This project has received numerous critiques — both positive and negative — by the Venezuelan people. These assessments have come both from sectors that support the process and understand the benefits provided by CDI’s in those communities, to sectors that think this is only a scheme for bringing Cubans into the country and making Venezuelan medicine look bad (as if our Cuban sisters and brothers were products that can be exported).

This article isn’t aimed at extoling the grass-roots health care progress that my country has made. Rather, it’s questioning something that has been happening ever since Venezuelans started going to these CDIs.

The moment people started going to these to be examined or when they expressed pain or discomforts to be addressed at this level of health care, we users would promptly be told to rest for 48 hours and we would be given a package of Piroxicam pills, which I call the “magical friend” of these clinics.

Wilson-Moreno-(2)But why do I call this medicine the “magical friend”?

It’s simple. You can go to one of these clinics complaining about pain in your leg or indicating that you’ve been vomiting or having stomach pains, a headache or any other symptom, but often — no matter what the symptom — the cure is the same: a wonderful cocktail of piroxicam tablets (as if these were the magic cure for all sorrows).

I’m no doctor, nor did I study anything even remotely similar to the art of medicine. However, as a thinking and critical being, I’ve given myself the task of investigating piroxicam: what it is and what it’s used for.

According to various websites and some medical friends I consulted, “Piroxicam is an anti-inflammatory and has been approved as a drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.”

But something that really caught my attention was the number of side effects this drug can cause.

According to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia in Spanish (April 2006), “The administration of piroxicam can cause certain side effects, including diarrhea, constipation, headaches, dizziness, nervousness and ringing in the ears. However, like any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, piroxicam can also cause ulcers, bleeding, and holes in the stomach or the intestines, especially in patients who have taken the drug for long periods of time.”

Incredible! Some of the side effects are the same symptoms for which the pill is recommended in these comprehensive diagnostic centers.

I should make it clear that medical care at these centers is excellent in serious situations, and in some ways I don’t have anything to complain about. Still, I have some criticisms based on what has happened. It’s worrisome that sometimes we take the medicine that doctors recommend to us believing that these are truly magical.

Or could it true that piroxicam is the magic pill that cures all Venezuela’s ills?



2 thoughts on “Venezuelan Clinics and Their Passion for ‘Piroxicam’

  • In Havana, Cuban doctors practice the same ‘one size fits all” brand of medicine using the wonderpill ‘dipirona’. Everything from headaches to high blood pressure. I guess these drugs are the Cuban version of the jewish cure-all chicken soup.

  • Piroxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used for effectively treating fever, pain, and inflammation. The side-effect list is similar to that other related drugs like ibuprofen or tylenol. I suspect the reason it’s being prescribed for any an d all complaints is for the purpose of relieving a bit of pain even if they can’t do anything about the underlying problem. It may be they have a large store of those pills on hand, so why not?

    On another level, perhaps this is symbolic of the medical care provided under Chavez through the Cuban medical teams: it doesn’t really do much, but it feels good for a while.

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