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VENEZUELA’S EPILEPTIC PATIENTS STRUGGLE WITH SEIZURES AMID DRUG SHORTAGE

[3/3/17]  Venezuelan plumber Marcos Heredia scoured 20 pharmacies in one day but could not find crucial medicines to stop his epileptic 8-year-old from convulsions that caused irreparable brain damage late last year.

The once giggly and alert boy, also called Marcos, could no longer sit on his own and began to shut off from the outside world.

“I called people in the cities of San Cristobal, Valencia, Puerto La Cruz, Barquisimeto, and no one could find the medicine,” Heredia, 43, said in the family’s bare living room in a windy slum overlooking an international airport in the coastal state of Vargas.

“You can’t find the medicines, and the government doesn’t want to accept that.”

Heredia ended up traveling 860 km (540 miles) by bus to the Colombian border to pick up medicine a cousin had bought him in the neighboring country. He was back at work the next day.

Venezuela’s brutal recession is worsening shortages of medicines from painkillers to chemotherapy drugs.

With 85 of every 100 medicines now missing in Venezuela, anti-convulsants are among the toughest drugs to find, Venezuela’s main pharmaceutical association said.

An estimated 2 million to 3 million Venezuelans suffer from epilepsy at some point in their lives, according to Caracas-based support organization LIVECE. Patients have been struggling to find specific anti-convulsive medicines as far back as 2012.

Due to untreated convulsions, progress has evaporated for otherwise functional people and those with severe disabilities who had managed to improve their mobility or speech.

Like Heredia, patients and families try anything they can to get hold of drugs: barter diapers, frantically engage in WhatsApp groups created specifically for pharmaceutical exchanges, use expired medicines or, if they can afford it, ask friends to bring them in from abroad.