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Cuba, the drug-deficient medical powerhouse - 06/29/2021

Cuba, the drug-deficient medical powerhouse – 06/29/2021

Atahualpa Amris.

Havana, June 29 (EFE). Cuba is a leader in the race for vaccines against Covid-19 in Latin America, which suffers from an alarming shortage of medicines: the stock of pharmacies and hospitals on the island is almost empty and the population is more vulnerable than ever to diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and scabies.

With an efficacy of 92.2% after applying three doses, according to the local health authorities, the Abdullah Al-Kube vaccine is close to the level of the Pfizer and Modern vaccines and is superior to AstraZeneca and Sputnik in.

Once approved, this immunizing agent and another candidate for a Cuban vaccine in an advanced stage of analysis, Soberana 02, will be the first to be fully developed in Latin America.

Cuba’s advanced biotech industry and its relative success in fighting the coronavirus (with fewer than 1,300 deaths in total) contrast with the country’s public health situation, where patients do not have medicine to treat themselves.

“There simply isn’t,” a young doctor from an office in Playa municipality in Havana told Efe.

How can patients be treated without antibiotics, analgesics, or other more specific medications? “Innovate, do magic,” replied his veteran companion, explaining that the few treatments still available were reserved for the most serious patients.

Arthritis and scars.

Maria, 74, has struggled with rheumatoid arthritis and polyneuropathy for nearly three decades, degenerative diseases that she was able to curb with injections of a B-complex vitamin and thiamine hydrochloride.

Since both solutions disappeared from drugstore shelves in the middle of last year, she was only able to inject the drugs a few times thanks to the help of a supportive neighbor. But even that wasn’t enough, he commented to Efe.

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“Last-stage arthritis involves infiltration and there is no such medication, so the joint remains inflamed and the pain is terrible. But what are we going to do? There are no medications,” Maria said.

There are also no antihistamines, anxiolytics or antidepressants and no traces of birth control pills or condoms, Efe was assured by the managers of several pharmacies in Havana.

The other big absence is permethrin, which treats scabies. The disease has re-emerged in force in the past year, causing frequent outbreaks across the island and prompting calls for help on social networks for affected people who cannot find medicine.

Cuban guilt or embargo.

Cuba classifies 619 medicines as essential, of which 359 are produced by BioCubaFarma, a state-owned biotechnology company.

“In 2021, our supplies and raw materials are running out and the average monthly shortage is 120 drugs,” BioCubaFarma Vice President Tania Urquiza acknowledged in a recent interview.

Urquiza blamed the US financial and trade embargo for the situation, as it makes the purchase of medicines, technologies, raw materials and equipment more expensive, and hinders transactions with third countries and access to external funding for research and development, among other losses.

“All this is in the midst of an international economic crisis, as global industry and logistics have collapsed, making it difficult to transport all the inputs and raw materials needed to Cuba for research and production of medicines and vaccines,” he said.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), when consulting with Effie, indicated that the epidemic was the main cause of the problem of drug shortages in Cuba.

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“Most of the raw materials, spare parts and other components needed for the production of medicines come from the Asian region, which has been badly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic. This situation has caused delays in the arrival of these goods, due to both of which the organization has announced problems of reducing production in these countries and interruption of air and sea transportation “.

In addition, Cuba is mired in its worst economic crisis in more than two decades, with a large balance of payments deficit and unable to meet its external debt, which translates into shortages not only of medicines, but also of almost all foodstuffs. and basic products.

Cooperation, smuggling and thrift.

Solidarity is a recipe for overcoming scarcity.

Maria said, “If I had an aspirin and a neighbor needed it, I would give it to him and vice versa. We help each other, because for many reasons we don’t have the things we need. And now we live like this.”

In addition to personal exchanges – there are WhatsApp and Telegram groups dedicated exclusively to the exchange of medicines in Cuba – there are cooperative networks organized by Cuban immigrants in Spain or the United States to collect and send medicines via individuals on the few flights they operate to the island. .

On one of those trips, insulin and glucose test strips arrived for the diabetic husband and son of Noria, a 44-year-old self-employed worker.

Other less altruistic methods such as smuggling. A box of acetaminophen, an antibiotic or an anticoagulant, or a tube of antifungal cream can sell for up to ten times the original price on Facebook groups or sales sites.

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If the above methods fail, only Providence remains. Such is the case with Nuria, who had already considered it impossible to find carbidopa + levodopa for her mother, who had Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s been a year and a half and we haven’t found this drug. In the end, we were able to find it a month ago, because a friend’s relative who had Parkinson’s disease and had a lot of reservations passed away,” he said. .