The Cuban government announces strong increases in medicine prices

Cuba annonce de fortes hausses des prix des médicaments

HAVANA, Dec.22th   The Cuban government will no longer subsidize a series of medicines and announced a substantial increase in the prices of medicines.

Cubans will now have to disburse large sums to buy drugs, within the framework of their economic reform, which will take effect from the 1st. January, the Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños Weiss, announced on national television over the weekend.

Among the drugs that will rise considerably in price are some widely used by Cubans. An analgesic like dipyrone (Metimazole sodium), for example, will cost 13 times more —from 3.50 pesos to 47.80 pesos (almost $ 2) – while an antibiotic like amoxicillin will cost between 18 and 33 pesos.

For decades, Cuba has boasted of a free healthcare system that is considered “an achievement of the revolution” led by Fidel Castro. The end of Soviet subsidies in the 1990s caused the government to allocate fewer resources to medicine, which has been reflected in the deterioration of the system.

Bolaños said that the government will continue to subsidize some medicines, such as those sold in a controlled manner in Cuban pharmacies. “The Budget contemplates more than 7,000 million pesos for drug subsidies,” he said.

Other drugs will not be subsidized, he explained, “those that the person needs at a specific moment, whether imported or manufactured domestically.”

Almost 20% of the Cuban population is over 60 years of age, according to a study recently published by the government, which sees ageing as “the main demographic challenge” of the nation.

Maritza Martínez, a 69-year-old diabetic from Cienfuegos, said she appreciated that the “controlled” drugs continue to be subsidized by the government.

“I take glibenclamide, which costs me 1.80 pesos. The problem is that there is almost never any. You have to be behind the pharmaceutical companies queuing all day. The same with the lancets to measure my sugar,” he said.

Cuba is going through a severe economic crisis and seeks to eliminate subsidies and obtain foreign exchange to keep its economy afloat, hard hit by the inefficiency of state companies, the COVID pandemic and the reduction of aid from the Nicolás Maduro regime.

The government announced a comprehensive price reform plan that includes the elimination of the Cuban convertible peso and a substantial rise in prices, wages, and pensions. An increase in inflation and the bankruptcy of dozens of state companies are expected.

Among the most unpopular measures announced by the government is the increase in electricity prices and a corralito for dollars in Cuban banks.

“I don’t know how people are going to pay for electricity, the prices of the warehouse (basic basket) and now also the medicines,” said Antonia Sánchez, a 71-year-old retiree who lives in Ciego de Ávila.

“If before my pension of 350 pesos was not enough [unos $14 al mes] Imagine now with sky-high prices and understocked stores, “said Sánchez.

The woman said that in her neighbourhood “they don’t talk about anything else.”

“Everybody is trying to buy the most medicine and food because 2021 is very bad,” he said.

Also, legal documents will cost more.

The Official Gazette No. 77 Extraordinary, issued on December 18, establishes a sharp rise in prices for obtaining legal documents such as birth, marriage, death certificates, criminal records, last will and declarations of heirs, which now They will cost 1,250 pesos, about $ 52.

Obtaining a divorce certificate will cost 3,750 pesos ($ 156) while the certification of legal capacity will cost 2,500 pesos ($ 104).

For those who want to work or study abroad, the situation will be even worse because they will need to pay up to $ 260 for obtaining certification of grades and degrees and that of the thematic plan of studies while obtaining study programs will rise up to 8,750 pesos, about $ 364.

“The government sees those of us who want to emigrate as an inexhaustible source of money,” said Michelle, a computer engineer who is finalizing the procedures to travel to Guyana with the aim of continuing to Uruguay and who asked not to reveal his last name for fear of reprisals from the government.

“In order to work in my speciality in Montevideo, I need to bring all the documents that support my studies, legalized by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations. They know it and take advantage of it,” said the young man.

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