Lose Your Kidney in Venezuela, 'Go Straight to the Cemetery'

Medicine shortage causing those with transplants to experience rejection
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2018 10:49 AM CST
Updated Mar 3, 2018 4:00 PM CST
A dialysis machine is shown in this stock photo.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – There's a literal casualty of Venezuela's ongoing economic woes: those with kidney problems. Reuters dives into the dire situation that both kidney transplant recipients and those hoping to join their ranks face in the midst of the country's inability to buy enough drugs from abroad or make enough domestically. USA Today cites the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela in saying the country was experiencing an 85% shortage of medicine—and that was as of June 2017. There are some 16,000 people who require dialysis, but the country's ability to clean their blood is waning, with an opposition lawmaker and oncologist saying only about half of the country's dialysis units are operational. Codevida, a health-related NGO, logged seven deaths in the first few weeks of February due to a lack of dialysis.

But dialysis patients, many hopeful for a future transplant, aren't the only ones dying. About 3,500 Venezuelans have had kidney transplants, and that number is slowly being chipped away at as they find themselves unable to obtain the anti-organ rejection drugs they need to take for the rest of their lives. A 40-year-old woman lost the transplanted kidney she's had for nearly 20 years and is now on dialysis, though she's encountering issues there, too; a 45-year-old man is trying to hang onto his by taking immunosuppressants made for animals. In the case of two brothers who received transplants, one died in November after going a month without medicine. Says his brother, "If you lose your kidney, you go to dialysis, but there are no materials. So you go straight to the cemetery." Deutsche Welle reports HIV patients there are trapped in a similar situation.

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