The prices of generic medications have increased markedly in Puerto Rico in recent months due in part to the lack of shipments from the U.S. mainland.
"The greatest impact has been among prescription medications," pharmacist Juan Martinez, the owner of the Farmacia Luis in the capital's Santurce district which fills about 300 prescriptions per day, told Efe on Thursday.
The elderly are those who are being most seriously affected by the rapid price rise for generic meds for maladies such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Calculations are that on the island there are more than 350,000 elderly people who do not have any kind of prescription drug benefit.
Martinez, who has been selling medications for 37 years, said that there are antibiotics that just a few months ago cost 25 cents but which now are selling for $6.
With Puerto Rico in the eighth year of a recession that has driven the jobless rate to 15 percent and left nearly 45 percent of the population in poverty, this price increase is making many patients abandon their treatment regimens or independently reduce their daily doses.
"It's definitely a risk. And when the patient goes to the doctor, it's seen that the medications are not working," said Martinez.
Elliot Pacheco Beauchamp, the president of the Puerto Rico Community Pharmacies Association, said the price increase is due in part to the fact that "the raw material has gotten scarcer for various reasons and when it comes back on the market, demand is so great that the price shoots up."
The situation would improve if Puerto Rico were included in the federal Low-Income Subsidy program which helps Medicare beneficiaries with a cap of $3,000 per year on the purchase of medications, he told Efe.
Seven out of the world's 10 most widely sold medications are manufactured in Puerto Rico and the island hosts 12 of the world's 20 largest pharma and biotech companies, but most of the merchandise they produce is exported. EFE