Black Market Medicines in Havana

Miguel Arias Sanchez

Pharmacy in Havana. They often run out of the most basic medicines that end up on the black market.

HAVANA TIMES — Medicine being sold on the black market or “on the side” is a very delicate subject. We all know about the difficult situation this country has with relation to medicines, both in manufacturing or importing them. This directly impacts the people who need them, sometimes even the ones which are distributed under State regulation via the so-called “health card” are missing.

Some are missing because the raw material that is imported to make them takes a while to reach Cuba, or because getting this raw material becomes hard work because of the US embargo. Looking at the situation from this angle only, it’s understandable that they are in shortage as the embargo is a reality which limits many deals, even though the Cuban government uses it to death to justify their own mistakes.

What isn’t understandable, and is quite offensive in fact, is that we need to buy many of these medicines which can’t be found in pharmacies on the street, paying exorbitant prices, sold by people who have nothing to do with official places authorized to sell them.

Why is this happening? At different times over the years, the government has announced that it would take measures to tackle this, but it continues to happen. The police has even been involved in the crusade against the illegal trade of medicines, taking those who dedicate themselves to this illegal and inhumane activity before the courts.

It’s really shameful that in a country which brags about being a medical power, which sends doctors and health specialists to all four corners of the Earth and it’s true that they really do provide medical care to every citizen that turns up at a polyclinic or hospital, there is a mafia of well-organized criminals in the health sector.

This mafia isn’t only made up of those who show their faces, but also people related to pharmacies or medicine warehouses who collude with them (luckily not everyone does this). People who are just trying to survive, of course, because their income isn’t enough to get them to the end of the month, but medicines should never be used to make profits.

You can see them lingering near pharmacies “secretly” announcing their goods at high prices, and people who really need them have no other choice but to buy them from them, I believe that if there is one crime that needs to be chased up on, it’s this one. They aren’t dealing with sweets or candies, or luxury items, this is people’s health, and as we all well know, nobody plays with that. This trade is unethical and it shames Cuba as if affects the lives of those of us who live here.

Miguel Arias

Miguel Arias Sánchez: I was born in Regla in 1949. That’s where I went to elementary and high school. Afterwards I took courses to be a teacher and did that for several years. I did my military service and as soon as I got out I studied formally to be a teacher graduating at the University of Havana. I taught in classrooms for nearly 20 years. I had the opportunity to travel and see another reality. I returned and am currently doing different self-employed activities.

2 thoughts on “Black Market Medicines in Havana

  • As I have said many times before, my company is willing to help resolve this problem. It is very difficult with our current president, but it can be done. Very simply, what we will initially require from the Cuban side is several doctors, several pharmacists, and one or two “government” retirees who are extremely familiar with the importation of medicines into Cuba. These people would partner with our company in Cuba and be in charge of the Medicines Import Program. Our non-profit, US-Cuba Agriculture Cooperative, would be responsible for locating, purchasing, and shipping from the manufacturers to Cuba at no charge to our company in Cuba, ICB-Cuba, which would be responsible for ordering, warehousing, and distribution in Cuba. Our Cuban prices would be set on a sliding scale from Free to Market Price. Potential partners can call me in the US at +1-662-301-2861 or text me at +1-650-421-6308, or email me at flyicbintl@aol.com or fax me at +1-662-301-2861. This is NOT for anyone trying to get rich, but Partners will be paid a fair US salary. We are after all, a Non-Profit company.

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  • Pharmaceuticals are now Cuba’s number one export. Yet the shortage of common pharmaceuticals in the Cuban people’s pharmacy is severe. I know because I sometimes am sent with a handful of prescriptions to fill and see the result.

    Yet, these same drugs which are frequently out of stock at the people’s pharmacy are usually available at tourist prices in the international pharmacy. And, the people’s pharmacy manager sees me as a Yuma ($$$), he stops me in the street and tells me that if I need something that is not available to see him personally as he has other sources of supply.

    There is also the 1960’s style manual inventory control system that only triggers the weekly reorder by the pharmacy when someone sees the shelf supply looks low.

    All these problems cause Cubans to stockpile pharmaceuticals to home “just in case” they might be needed. This problem is compounded by friendly doctors who have no concern about writing extra scripts no matter if they are needed or not.

    The system is broken in so many ways. While the majority of them are solvable, there appears no will to do so.

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