Cuba Medicine Shortages are Not New

The more I learn about Cuba, the less I know. It is the most perplexing country I have been too. But even I know that Cuba medicine shortage has always been a problem.
Cuba’s medical system has been called a model system by its proponents; one that should be emulated. I have also heard it said that doctors are treated like slaves and sent wherever they need to go in trade for oil. I’m sure reality is somewhere in between.
Surprisingly, I have met several doctors in Havana. I say surprisingly because one doctor was driving a cab part time. His meager salary wasn’t enough to survive. I met a guide who also had a medical degree and had been a family physician. She is no longer a pays more to herd the occasional tourist than to treat the sick.

Cuba medicine shortage
Cuba medicine shortage (this time) is due to cash shortage.

VOANews reports this story. This time around the shortage is from a cash crunch. Venezuela is falling apart and had been Cuba’s biggest supporter. I quote from the story:

85 percent of the resources its pharmaceutical industry uses are imported, BioCubaFarma Director of Operations Rita Maria García Almaguer was cited as saying in Granma, and Cuba has been struggling to pay foreign providers.
​Lower exports and aid from key socialist ally Venezuela caused a liquidity crisis that prompted Havana last year to slash imports, helping tip it into recession.

Medicine production therefore stalled in 2016 and some of 2017 due to lack of inputs, according to GarcÃa Almaguer.

“The production of some forms of pharmaceuticals was stalled because the resources were not available on time, which means we were unable to fulfill the demands of the national health system,” she was quoted as saying.

Many common medicines, for example contraceptives or those treating hypertension, have been scarce or lacking altogether over the past year, Granma wrote.

BioCubaFarma and the government had been working together since the start of last year to fix the issue and ensure the availability of at least one medicine per pharmacological group, GarcÃa Almaguer said.

Granma also reported that “The government had also tightened its control of pharmacies nationwide given it had detected some corruption, such as the illegal sale of medicine” This part really seems a joke because the whole Cuban economy is based on the black market. Without it people would starve.

Anybody who has traveled to Cuba knows to bring anything they might need in medicines. Prescriptions for sure, but even simple things like aspirins, allergy tablets, etc. If you need it…bring it. Just another Cuban quirk (or socialist government quirk.)

See my post on the Cuban Internet for another quirk.

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