Cuba’s New Medical Prescription Forms Address the Fight Against the Black Market

Left, new medical prescription forms for Havana province, now in use; Right, new form for the rest of Cuba as of 19 February. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2018 – Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) has established a new model of medical prescription forms to “confront the crimes and illegalities involved in the improper use of medications,” according to a report this Saturday in the state the newspaper Granma. The measure began to take effect in Havana on February 1 and will go into effect in the rest of the country on the 19th of this month.

MINSAP’s decision comes amid a severe shortage of drugs, which worsened throughout 2017. At the end of last year the shortages included 49 drugs, 44 of which are produced domestically and five of which are imported, according to a report to Parliament from Minister of Health Roberto Morales.

The shortages of tablets, especially analgesics, antipyretics and other much more expensive drugs, which are diverted from the state network to be sold on the black market, Morales explained, contributed to the shortage, as did the lack of raw materials.

In order to try to stop these “diversions,” MINSAP modified the previous official model of the medical prescription form by adding “an institutional stamp for exclusive use of the prescription, which will be reflected in the upper right,” reported Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party.

The stamp will have four different geometric shapes: triangular for institutions at the national level, circular for hospitals, rectangular for polyclinics, and a polygon for other health institutions, said Dr. Emilio Delgado Iznaga, director of Medicines and Medical Technologies at MINSAP.

Each prescription also carries the number of the identity card of the patient and those already circulating in Havana add the name of the province in the lower part, “next to the serial number and folio” to prevent prescriptions from other provinces circulating in the capital.

Granma clarifies that “medical prescriptions are valid in the pharmacy network of the province where the prescribing doctor works,” but not outside that territory. Purchasing drugs in other provinces has been a frequent practice among patients to get around local shortages.

During 15 working days after the implementation date of the new prescription forms, the circulation of both the previous and the newly created models is allowed.

The new forms seek to narrow the opportunities for illegalities in a country with an extensive black market in medicines, especially drugs of national production.

The BioCubaFarma group produces 505 (63%) of the 801 drugs available in the country, but imports more than 85% of the raw materials needed, mostly bought in distant markets such as China, India, and Europe. In addition, 60% of the containers are purchased outside the Island.


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