Cuba’s health authorities on Saturday acknowledged difficulties in the manufacture of medicines on the island, causing major shortages, while customs authorities extended the tax exemption on imports of health products intended for the personal consumption.

Questioned by a parliamentary committee, the president of the state pharmaceutical group BioCubafarma, Eduardo Martinez Diaz, declared that his teams were working “intensely to resolve the many shortcomings”, while recognizing that “it will not be immediate”.

The Caribbean island has a public healthcare system. The latter must in particular provide medicines to one of the oldest populations in Latin America.

Mr. Martinez Diaz indicated that “until April, 143 drugs were missing in one or more provinces”. The official explained that due to the severe economic crisis hitting the island, the manufacture of certain medicines had to be “postponed”.

Among the reasons for these difficulties are “the non-availability of raw materials and necessary equipment (94%), and the shutdown of factories due to breakdown or maintenance (6%)”.

He pointed to a “lack of funding, payment problems to suppliers and interruptions in supplies due to the American embargo”, in force since 1962.

At the same time, customs announced the extension for six months, until December, of the abolition of taxes on medicines, food and hygiene products, without quantity limit, brought by travelers in their luggage and intended for use staff.

This measure has been in effect since June 2021.

The island of 11.2 million people is going through its worst economic crisis in nearly three decades, due to the fall in tourism due to the pandemic and the tightening of the United States embargo.