Monday, July 25, 2011

The High Prices of Cuban Medicines

The High Prices of Cuban Medicines
July 25, 2011
Irina Echarry

As a result of a severe case of anemia that I was discovered to have,
I've been forced to make drastic changes in my lifestyle. These relate,
for example, to my eating schedule and having to consume certain foods
in special ways; but also to my having to take specific medicines to
increase the amount of iron in my body.

That's easy to say, but experience demonstrates that the task is
extremely complicated. My medical care has been free and quick. Some
medicines I've been able to buy easily at the pharmacy, but to acquire
others I've had to turn to the black market.

But as many people agree, in Cuba there's alternative medicine for
anemia, and its quality has been demonstrated. Therefore I threw myself
into the task of reinforcing my treatment by raising my hemoglobin level

It's true that Cuban laboratories like Labiofan, BioCen or Genix market
truly nutritious products such as Trofin, Ferrical and Spirulina.

Ferrical is sold for 30 Cuban pesos (about $1.20 USD), but you can
rarely get it in pharmacies, unless you go to Ojo de Agua. They make the
medicine there but to buy it you have to show the papers that indicate
you have anemia, meaning that preventive treatment cannot be rendered.

Trofin and Spirulina are a little more difficult to acquire since
they're only sold in hard currency CUCs. For Trofin they use blood,
hydrolyzed proteins and bee honey. This magnificent anti-anemic,
produced completely in Cuba, supplies iron to the body and doesn't
produce adverse reactions – except to the pocket: it costs 9.60 CUCs (US
$10.60). They tell me though that pregnant women receive it free in
maternal homes, as do people suffering from HIV.

Spirulina is an alga with an impressive concentration of nutrients. It
proliferates in warm waters and in our country it's plentiful. There has
been an entire revolution with its discovery since it provides
significant quantities of proteins, especially Vitamin B12. A flask with
70 pills is sold for 5 CUCs and the recommended daily dose is six pills
– thus to take if for a month costs well over half the average wage here.

I have no idea or information about how much the government spends on
the production of those medicines. However, keeping in mind the poor
nourishment here on the island, some solution should be sought so that
ordinary Cubans (those who aren't pregnant and don't have HIV) can
acquire them at less onerous prices.

This is to say that sick citizens shouldn't have to pay for a Cuban
product at the same price as a foreigner who comes here on a visit. Is
something like that possible?

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