Venezuela’s Congress, which is now controlled by the government opposition, has declared a health crisis amid shortages of medications and medical equipment.
Lawmakers debated the issue after Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation, or Fefarven, president Freddy Ceballos explained flaws and problems in the distribution of up to 80 percent of medications across the country.
"We are witnessing a human crisis, patients are dying for lack of medication," Ceballos told EFE, adding that it was "very difficult" to keep records of patients affected by diseases that appeared recently, such as Zika, since there was not an epidemiological bulletin, a report that Congress should restore.
The government has not proposed a solution and although President Nicolas Maduro recently promised "13 'engines' to activate Venezuela's economy, he did not mention health care in any of these areas," Ceballos said.
The currency controls are creating shortages of medications to treat high blood pressure, convulsions and cancer, as well as antibiotics and contraceptives, among others, Ceballos said.
Production of these medications "requires raw materials and to bring in raw materials dollars are needed," the Fefarven president said.
Since 2003, legislation has reserved the authority to buy and sell hard currency, which is then distributed to businesses through a complicated procedure, for the government.
The government should implement "realistic and binding" agreements for the distribution of hard currency to manufacturers and importers of pharmaceutical products, Ceballos said.
Domestic production should have priority over imports since "a dollar in Venezuela yields five times more," Ceballos said.
The Fefarven president cited as an example immunoglobulin used for the treatment of Guillain-Barre syndrome, associated with the Zika virus, which could be manufactured in the country but instead is imported.
Ceballos expects a worsening situation in Venezuela and called on the World Health Organization, or WHO, and other international institutions to send medications to the country.