Cuba cuts red tape in prescription drug sales
Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:57pm EDT
By Rosa Tania Valdes
HAVANA, March 25 (Reuters) – Cuba has lifted a rule that forced people
to pick up prescription drugs from a pharmacy assigned by the state,
adding to steps by President Raul Castro to cut excessive regulation in
the Communist country.
Public health sources said on Tuesday that Cubans can now buy
prescription drugs at any pharmacy.
Until now, they had to fill prescriptions at a single pharmacy attached
to hospitals or local clinics, a bureaucratic measure introduced during
a severe crisis in the 1990s when resources were scarce due to the
collapse of the Soviet Union.
"People used to have to go to our pharmacy and if there wasn't the right
medicine or it would take a while to make, they would have to come back
even if they lived far away," said Maribel, a Havana doctor. "Now they
can go wherever without getting new prescriptions or having to travel
The restriction was unpopular and Raul Castro has set about eliminating
some of the "excessive regulations" governing all aspects of Cuban
society since he took office as president last month.
"There were lots of complaints. The authorities want people to be
happy," said a Havana pharmacy manager, who did not want to be named
because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter.
Raul Castro took over as president on Feb. 24, ending 49 years of rule
by his elder brother Fidel Castro, who has failed to fully recover from
intestinal surgery that sidelined him in July 2006.
"In the next few weeks, we shall start removing the most simple
excessive regulations and prohibitions," Raul Castro said in his first
speech as president.
Next week, computers, DVD players and other electronic equipment will go
on sale for the general public for the first time since the energy
crisis of the 1990s. Until now, only companies could purchase them.
Last week, the government began opening stores where farmers for the
first time can buy some supplies without waiting for the state to assign
And local sources say Cubans may soon be allowed to buy cell phones and
stay in tourist hotels where they have been barred for decades. (Editing
by Kieran Murray)