HomeNewsBlack Market Medication Grows Controversial in Cuba
NEWS

Black Market Medication Grows Controversial in Cuba

CARIBBEAN / 16 FEB 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Cuban health officials have warned citizens against taking medication believed to be smuggled in from Haiti after reports of adverse side effects, as the island becomes even more dependent on the black market during the pandemic.

On January 31, a report by the state-run Juventud Rebelde stated that several residents from the eastern city of Holguín and the surrounding area had experienced grave reactions after taking what they believed to be anti-anxiety medications, Chlordiazepoxidem and Nitrazepam. The medications had been purchased on the black market.

After a clinical examination, Deisy Guerrero, a state health official, concluded that the pills did not correspond to the name printed on the packaging and warned the public against taking medications coming from abroad that have not been certified in Cuba.

On October 20, state-owned media reported that tighter restrictions on pharmaceuticals, including Chlordiazepoxide, have been imposed in Holguín pharmacies due to concerns of “irrational use, overconsumption and illegalities.”

SEE ALSO: Coronavirus Driving Black Market for Medical Equipment in Cuba

According to statements by those who had suffered from bad side effects, the sellers told them that the pills came from Haiti, although Juventud Rebelde indicated that how exactly they entered the country remained unclear.

Medication purchased in Cuba's black market has been sourced to Haiti in the past. In 2018, according to Miami-based broadcaster Radio Televisión Martí, Haiti had become one of the cheapest and easiest routes to travel in order to smuggle health-related goods, including medications, vitamins, anesthetics and Botox, all of which were later sold on the black market.

Since Cuba’s borders opened on October 12, flights between Holguín and nearby Haiti have resumed, although it is still unknown how smugglers were able to get this medication past the airport’s very strict customs, when imports of such products are banned in Cuba.

During the pandemic, both medication and medical equipment have become more commonplace on the Cuban black market as medicines have simply not been available to purchase. In June 2020, 116 official medications were recorded as unavailable on the island, according to Diario de Cuba.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Cuban government has sought to dissuade the use of the black market, even cracking down on resellers who purchase goods from dollar stores and sell them on at a mark-up.

But while a recent package of reforms has raised the salaries of public workers and retirees, it has also increased the price of basic goods, including medicine, which is likely to increase black market dependency for millions of Cubans. A massive expansion of the private sector, announced in February 2021, will take time to have its impact felt and is unlikely to rapidly alleviate this immediate need.

SEE ALSO: For Cuban Government, Desperate Resellers are Dangerous Criminals

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, with state manufacturers not able to import raw materials needed to produce medication and gas shortages hindering the transportation of supplies to hospitals and pharmacies. Worse, sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump blocked vital COVID-19 medical aid from reaching the island.

In response to these shortages and the prevalence of black-market drugs, health officials have struck on an unconvincing approach, asking Cubans to seek herbal remedies.  

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 8 JUL 2021

The G9 is a federation of the strongest gangs in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, founded in 2020 by Jimmy Chérizier,…

CONTRABAND / 30 JUN 2021

In the absence of an adequate COVID-19 vaccination plan, criminal networks in Venezuela have seized upon ongoing mismanagement to steal…

COCAINE / 2 MAR 2021

With higher profits and lower risks than the United States, Europe has emerged recently as arguably the most important cocaine…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…