Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Looking for a Lost Pill

Looking for a Lost Pill / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on June 18, 2013

The piece of paper was left under the door, but he only found it the
other day. The list was written in rough handwriting, with spelling that
exchanged "R's" for "L's" and some "B's" for "V's." But he understood
everything. Diazepam continues at 10 pesos for a dozen pills and should
be delivered within a day, at least for the next month. Paracetamol is
also available, so next to the name of that medicine he put the number
two. This time he didn't need alcohol, but Nystatin cream is a yes so he
marked it. His son, restless by nature, could also use some meprobamate
so he also wrote down the number for a several week supply. This dealer
was reliable, he'd never been cheated, all the medications were good
quality and some were even imported. More than once he'd bought the
sealed jars that said, "Sale prohibited, free distribution only."

The business of medications and other medical supplies is growing every
day. A stethoscope on the black market costs the salary of two working
days; a Salbutamol spray for asthmatics costs the wages of an entire
work day. Given the undersupplied State pharmacies, patients and their
families can't sit around with their arms crossed. A roll of tape costs
around 10 pesos in national currency, the same price as a glass
thermometer. You can break the law or continue diagnosing fever with a
hand to the forehead. The danger, however, comes not only from violating
the law. In reality, many customers self-medicate or consume pills that
no doctor has prescribed for them. Given the clandestine seller, it's
not necessary to show a prescription and he never questions what the
client is going to do with the pills or syrups.

Despite the successive sweeps against drug smuggling, the phenomenon
seems to increase rather than decrease. In the Havana area of Puentes
Grandes an old trash bin turned into a pharmaceutical warehouse is the
emblem of the government strategies and failures to prevent illicit
sales. The police are incapable of eradicating the situation, because
the diversion of medications is carried out from grocers, pharmacy
technicians, nurses, doctors, even hospital directors. The greatest
demands are centered around analgesics, anti-inflammatories,
antidepressants, syringes, cotton and painkiller creams. The illegal
drug market also goes along with adulteration and counterfeiting.

Some small white pills, costing three times their official value, can
end the problem, or be the start of others, more serious.

19 June 2013

Source: "Looking for a Lost Pill / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba" -

No comments:

Post a Comment