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Venezuelans Using Animal Drugs as 85 Percent of Pharmacies Close to Shutting Down

Venezuelans have resorted to using home remedies, procuring veterinary medications, and looking for black market drugs on social media as government-imposed price controls and rations have led to a scarcity of medicine so severe, 85 percent of the nation’s pharmacies are in danger of shutting down.

“85 percent of the nation’s pharmacies will go bankrupt,” asserted Freddy Ceballos, the head of the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela, on Monday. “The problem is not only drug shortages, but the Venezuelan government fixed price laws froze prices in a range where the commercial chain loses,” he explained. These price fixes make it economically unviable to buy or sell drugs across the country, causing regional shortages. Ceballos is demanding a government response to what he calls a “humanitarian crisis.” The price fixes also affect the production of drugs, which has almost completely halted.

“People are dying because of a lack of medicine,” he asserted.

The result is a pharmaceutical market where Venezuelans are seeking remedies for their health problems by any means necessary. The PanAmerican Post notes that many have resorted to social media, Twitter in particular, to find sellers for the particular drug they need to survive.
Pharmacists, meanwhile, have resorted to other medications. “We are using veterinary drugs… because the Venezuelan state does not give us money to produce [drugs for human use] here,” Ceballos told the Cuban independent publication 14 y medio.

Birth control drugs, anti-viral medication, antibiotics, and cancer treatments have become especially difficult to find in Venezuela. Ceballos had described the nation’s birth control pill reserves as “nearly completely gone” in July.

Ceballos notes that a significant reason pharmacies are going out of business is that the Venezuelan government owes them a total of $3.5 billion. The government reportedly owed drug manufacturers $4 billion in 2014, shortly before Venezuelan companies almost completely stopped manufacturing medicine. The lack of antibiotics that year resulted in a major increase in the number of amputation cases in the country.
Venezuela’s medical infrastructure is government controlled and largely organized by Cuban doctors, dispatched by the Cuban government in exchange for Venezuelan oil. Venezuela’s health program has been in danger of collapse since Hugo Chávez was in power. In 2013, doctors protested that most organ transplants had been halted and 70 percent of radiography machines were inoperable due to the lack of funds for upkeep. At the time, that resulted in less than 5,000 of the nation’s 19,000 cancer patients receiving treatment.

The shortages of drugs, basic food items, and necessary goods, in addition to rampant political oppression of anti-socialist peaceful protesters, resulted in a landslide election on December 6 that returned power to the Venezuelan right for the first time in 16 years. The government of President Nicolás Maduro has attributed the victory to a so-called “economic war” waged by the United States against Venezuela, and has begun firing dozens of government workers who voted for opposition candidates, labeling them “traitors.”

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