Viernes, 19 de Octubre de 2018
Última actualización: 15:03 CEST

The decision to cut spending by paralyzing the drug industry: an inhumane blunder

A Havana pharmacy. (REUTERS)

Over the last year an alarming crisis has become evident to Cubans with regards to the country's supply of medicines, as widespread shortages have reached unprecedented levels, even surpassing the direst years of the Special Period.

The population has suffered greatly from controllable diseases, and others that are more severe. The Government, however, has not reported on the impact of this crisis on morbidity and mortality rates.

In fact, during this period there have been few official explanations, nor has any hope for a solution been offered, nor did the National Assembly, meeting in December 2016 and June 2017, address the issue.

Finally, a few days ago the official newspaper Granma published statements by the Director of Operations at the state company BioCubaFarma, Rita María García Almaguer, who admitted that the prolonged shortage is due to "the lack of financing necessary to pay suppliers" from whom raw materials, packaging and supplies are purchased.

García Almaguer added that this was why "production plants had to be shut down in 2016 and part of 2017."

The official stated that work is being done to re-establish a stable supply of the medications in the highest demand, but from her words it could be inferred that this will be a long process, taking at least all of 2018, and possibly continuing into 2019.

Remedying the current situation entails reactivating Cuban industry and recovering contracts with suppliers once the debts have been settled – essential to be able to generate confidence and subscribe new ones.

Cuba's domestic production covers more than 50%, but depends on imports for 85% of the products used, 92% of the active ingredients, and 60% of the packaging materials. China, India and Europe are the country's main partners.

This time the blame for the problem was really not placed on the US "blockade." The way the official alluded to it seemed perfunctory: "our industry is not immune to the effects of the US blockade," she stated.

We Cubans have had to speculate for more than a year about the possible causes of the lack of medicines, and it seems that we will continue to do so.

The interview left many questions unanswered: why did the suppliers stop being paid? If this financing was surely approved in the State budget, who decided to default in such a sensitive area? Were any measures taken against those responsible?

If the country saw a dip in its revenues, financing of the medicine industry and the importation of medications should have been the last thing eliminated.

In previous articles on this problem we have suggested the hypothesis, due to the temporal coincidence, that the situation may be due to the suspension of a large portion of the supply of Venezuelan oil, resulting from the crisis in the South American country.

If this was the case, it was an inhumane blunder to cut national spending in such a way as to paralyze the medicine industry, which greatly impairs Cubans' quality of life, as they struggle with enough daily difficulties already.

Although the explanation by the director of BioCubaFarma is certainly welcome, it is still disrespectful, issued after more than a year of waiting, and incomplete.

The official press has been equally "careless", or lazy, when it comes to reporting on this issue – a coincidence to which we are, unfortunately, accustomed.