Medicine Shortage Affects Lives of Cuban People

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Cubans are lining up on Thursdays in hopes of getting their hands on scarce medicines that arrive in Friday shipments, but despite the overnight wait, many leave empty-handed. The cause, in part, is financial restrictions imposed by the US, says Eduardo Martinez, head of the state-run pharmaceutical company, BioCubaFarma, according to, an independent English language web site and blog published in Nicaragua.

The greatest shortage is for medicines for chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and heart-related diseases. Santiago, a man in his 60s, he had been in line since 8 p.m. the previous night and was still in 6th place.

“The problem is that I haven’t had the medicine I take for 10 days now and I’m unbalanced,” he said. The delivery truck came after 2 p.m. Friday. Luckily Santiago’s medicine, enalapril, came in. But many people were disappointed when other medicines, like captopril, also for blood pressure, did not arrive according to Havana Times.

The problem has been going on for years but gets little coverage. And, it is getting worse.

In December 2017, a brief article from Miami’s Local 10 ABC News simply mentioned that “Health officials reported Thursday they are working to alleviate the pain of Cubans who are facing medicine shortages.” Also, in December 2017, a Reuters article quoting the Communist newspaper, Granma, reported, “The industry has been recovering, and most production is stable now,” according to BioCubaFarma Director of Operations Rita Maria García Almaguer. However, on February 14, 2018, Havana times reported that the medicine shortages persist in pharmacies in Cuba, and reported that on February 3, Granma recognized “Beyond improvements, the medicine shortages situation in the country continue to persist.”


Vicente Morin Aguado, “Cuba’s Black Market Responds to Chronic Shortages,” Havana Times, January 31, 2018,

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez, “Medicine Shortage Persists in Cuba,” Havana Times, July 11, 2017,

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez, “Medicine Shortages in Cuba Are Becoming More Severe,” Havana Times, May 3, 2017,

IPS Cuba, “Medicine Shortages Persist in Cuban Pharmacies,” Havana Times, February 14, 2018,

Aurelio Pedroso, “Medicine Shortages in Cuba Worsen,” Havana Times, October 17, 2016,

Student Researcher: Alexa Lawlor (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluators: Janelle Blakley and Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)