Venezuela Patients Resort to Pet Medications

Kevin Blanco got a life-saving kidney transplant 15 years ago, but the chronic shortages gripping crisis-hit Venezuela have put his life at risk again.

Faced with the disappearance of prednisone and CellCept, the drugs he needs to take every day to keep his immune system from attacking his kidney as a foreign object, Blanco had to resort to taking veterinary versions designed for pets.

“It’s a bit humiliating,” he said as he brandished a bright pink box of prednisone with a picture of a dog on it, which costs 90 times more than the human version because it does not benefit from government price controls.

Venezuela’s Pharmaceutical Federation estimates that 70 percent of medications have disappeared from the shelves in Venezuela as the country struggles through an economic crisis exacerbated by falling prices of its main export, oil.