After 17 transplant patients die, Maduro regime resumes supplying of medication

The Venezuela Social Security Institute (Ivss) is again delivering immunosuppressants after a spate of transplanted patients deaths. The drug Tacrolimus had been out of stock for a year in state pharmacies. In that period, 17 patients did not resist the complications resulting from a lack of treatment. This Wednesday, July 29, the medicine reappeared at the agency in Los Ruices, Caracas.

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A state-operated high-cost pharmacy. The free delivery of medicine got suspended for a year. Photo by Andres Rodriguez.

By Jesus Barreto A.

Rosa Astudillo, 64, did not have enough time to see the resumption in deliveries of the medicine that would have kept her alive. The kidney patient, who lived in Sucre state, suffered an accelerated deterioration of her body functioning. Unable to access treatment from any other source, she died on July 24.

In Venezuela, the transplant patients who receive the new organ, get the medicines to avoid rejection by the government. By law, private sector pharmacies can’t sell transplant drugs. So, when the government can not provide the meds, patients have a little choice. Those drugs are both expensive and hard to get.

Astudillo was the last name in a list of 17 deaths due to the lack of immunosuppressants, especially Tracolimus, according to a record of transplant-related deaths by NGO Amigos Trasplantados de Venezuela (ATV in Spanish).

Thanks to this immunosuppressant, Astudillo preserved the kidney she received four years ago. Currently, more than 2,700 transplant persons are at risk of losing their organs due to a lack of medicine.

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In July alone, the ATV counted five deaths for this cause. According to this figure, the state of Sucre shows the highest fatality rate.

Cesar Chacon, a resident of Sucre state, was reported dead July 5; Yulimar Escalona, from Barinas, died on July 11; and Lerida Naranjo, also from Sucre, who died on July 12, was the third deaths of this month. All deaths occurred in just one week, and all three had Tracolimus as a fundamental part of their organ preservation therapy. They were followed by Alfredo Quintero, who died on July 19, in Zulia state.

All the deaths were preceded by a severe agony, as a consequence of the failure of the transplanted organ. Hypertension, increased levels of urea, creatinine, glycemia, and potassium in the blood are the first symptoms of this lethal disorder.

Mortal opacity

When a patient loses a transplanted organ, the evolution of complications tends to be faster, explained Reymer Villlamizar, director of ATV. Many of the patients must return for dialysis treatment (in kidney transplant cases). But most do not resist.

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The 1-milligram Tracolimus was sold out a year ago in the high-cost pharmacies of the Venezuelan Social Security Institute (Ivss). On the morning of Monday, July 27, at the Ivss agency located in Los Ruices, Caracas, officials from the Ministry of Health reported the availability of the drug. This announcement was made just minutes before the start of a protest by transplant patients, led by Villlamizar.

Those affected have the fear that this resumption will not last. Each patient requires a specific lifetime dose that cannot be interrupted.

Villamizar said that in early July, the Tracolimus drug reappeared on the black market with the Ivss seal. These sales are illegal because the compound has to be imported exclusively by the state. After 17 transplant recipients die, Maduro regime resumes supplying of medication.

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