Widespread shortages have been ravaging supplies of Venezuelan food, tech, and medical industries for months, due to the instability of the political and financial climate in that country. Now, shortages of medications have gotten so bad that some Venezuelans have reportedly resorted to using medications for pets.
Yahoo! News and Reuters reported recently that Venezuela’s Pharmaceutical Federation estimates somewhere around 70% of prescription medications have been stolen off the shelves of pharmacies, in response to the country’s worsening shortages and inflation rate.
Illegal prescription drug transactions are fairly common in most countries today; in the U.S., for example, it’s estimated that around 10% of all prescription drug sales are fraudulent, and commonly focus on pain relievers and stimulants that can produce a high. In Venezuela, however, consumers are stealing and selling prescription drugs because they’re trying to stay healthy.
Many patients, in fact, are actually fighting for their lives, which has become a virtual nightmare when hospitals have no supplies and no idea of when any supplies will be imported.
For this reason, according to the Venezuelan Medical Federation, patients have begun turning to the drugs sold by their local veterinarians.
These medications most often include antibiotics, steroids, and pain killers which contain the same active ingredient as drugs intended for people, but which haven’t been approved for human consumption — and which could potentially cause very bad reactions.
The International Business Times states that the shortages have reached a “critical level” and inflation continues to skyrocket; the value of the Venezuelan bolivar has undergone so much inflation that Venezuelans rarely even use their own currency anymore.
Of course, the price of basic items is perhaps not the biggest worry of the average Venezuelan consumer, considering that it’s hard to get any items imported into the country now, save for what’s smuggled in on the black market.
The decline of Venezuela’s economy began during 2014 when the price of crude oil began falling; considering that crude oil comprises 95% of Venezuela’s exports, this price drop severely impacted the economy, causing the inflation rate to skyrocket. In the past, Venezuela has imported nearly all of its food and medical supplies from foreign manufacturers, but as the bolivar’s value has decreased, companies have been refusing to bring goods into the country.
The Venezuelan pharmaceutical industry reportedly owes approximately $3.5 billion in unpaid imports to foreign companies.