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Venezuela Short of Crucial Medicines

FILE - A Farmatodo pharmacy in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 2, 2015.
FILE - A Farmatodo pharmacy in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 2, 2015.

With scores of medicines in short supply due to a severe financial squeeze, Venezuela is suffering a "humanitarian crisis" and requires rapid international assistance, according to a major pharmaceutical association.

The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation listed 150 medicines, from those for hypertension to cancer, as well as basics such as prophylactics and antibiotics, which are scarce in the OPEC nation of 29 million people.

"The national government must accept we are in a humanitarian crisis in the health sector, with patients dying across our territory for lack of medicines," said association president Freddy Ceballos in a statement.

"It's necessary to activate all mechanisms of international health assistance to solve this crisis as soon as possible," he added, without specifying what aid he thought should be sought.

The health ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the pharmaceutical association's statement, but Venezuela's socialist government has bristled at criticism of its health system, which former President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013, spent lavishly on during an oil bonanza.

It accuses local groups of exaggerating problems and says the widespread shortages in Venezuela - of food as well as medicines - are due to an "economic war" by foes.

Long lines form daily outside pharmacies, and doctors and patients constantly complain of lack of medicines and equipment.

Maduro last week decreed an "economic emergency" in the recession-hit nation with the fastest inflation in the world rings up a roughly $10 billion foreign debt bill this year amid plunging oil revenues.

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