Medicine shortage in Venezuela creating dire situation for patients

World Today

Medicine shortage in Venezuela creating dire situation for patients

The economic crisis in Venezuela has meant severe shortages of the most basic goods.

Many people spend hours in line every day, searching for food and medicine. For organ transplant patients, finding the medicine that keeps their bodies from rejecting their new organs can mean the difference between life and death.

CGTN’s Juan Carlos Lamas reports from Caracas.
Follow Juan Carlos Rivas Lamas on Twitter @JuanRivasLamas

Kevin Blanco received a life-saving transplant 17 years ago. He got a new kidney when his own stopped working and a donor organ became available. But the transplant itself is not enough. Kevin also needs to take medicine to make sure his body doesn’t reject the donor kidney.

“I have gone for five months now without being able to buy my medicine. That means that I could die at any time,” transplant patient Kevin Blanco said.

According to the non-profit health organization CodeVida, there is a critical lack of medications to treat transplant patients in Venezuela – putting the lives of more than 3500 people at risk. And that’s prompting patients to take extreme measures to obtain the drugs they need to survive.

“The few medicines that I can find now are recycled, from a relative of a patient who managed to travel and buy them abroad, but when they came back it was too late. The patient had died already. I’m using a medicine that could have saved the life of another person but is now is saving mine,” Blanco said.

Patients have taken to the streets to protest and assert their right to healthcare, calling on the government to accept humanitarian aid to help alleviate the internal crisis.

“There is an 85 percent lack of medicines in the pharmacies in Venezuela and for the few that are available, the price is so high that patients cannot afford them,” Pharmaceutical Federation of America president Freddy Ceballos said.

The situation went viral on social media last month, when CodeVida tweeted a desperate plea from a kidney transplant patient, searching for the drugs she said she had not been able to find for 90 days. She reportedly died hours later.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed Venezuela’s shortage of medicine on an international conspiracy, on organized crime in Colombia and on U.S. sanctions.

“We have had the problem of dependence on imported products from abroad, and we’re suffering from a terrible sabotage this year with the sanctions of the US. It’s hard but they are not going to stop us,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.

Maduro said he’s looking to China and India for help and he said he’s working on a plan for Venezuela to produce its own medicines.

Transplant patients can hear the clock ticking as weeks go by with no medicine. To them, it doesn’t matter where the medicine comes from — as long as it reaches them in time.