CARACAS, Venezuela, April 30 (UPI) -- Venezuela has implemented a system requiring patients to register their fingerprints at pharmacies that will allow them to buy a limited amount of medicine.
A shortage of medicine in Venezuela has left many unable to treat various ailments. The South American country's health ministry said the Integral System for Access to Medicines, abbreviated to SIAMED, was enacted to combat medicine hoarding, but critics blame the government for the shortages.
The medicine shortage has reportedly led to patient deaths and to unnecessary surgeries due to the inability to treat otherwise, including needless mastectomies.
"We are in the best of spirits to support the guarantee of drugs to such patients nationwide," Venezuelan Chamber of Pharmacy President, Gabriela Espinoza said. "We applaud the initiative of the Ministry of Health to convene... together to build this system."
Critics blame the shortage on the socialist government for harming production of medicine from private companies and for lacking the foreign currency to import medicines due to the struggling economy.
"This (SIAMED) won't solve the problem because it doesn't get at the cause, which is the lack of supply of medicines," Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation Freddy Ceballos told the GlobalPost. "The government won't talk about it, the fact that this appears to be rationing, but everyone else is. We will see how it operates in practice."
About 2,600 private pharmacies have signed up to the system so far.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced in March that the government will install 20,000 fingerprint scanners at grocery stores throughout the country.
The fingerprint scanners are designed to prevent people from buying more subsidized goods than they are allowed in an effort to combat smuggling, according to the Venezuelan government, but critics cite the rationing program's creation on the country's failing economy and governmental mismanagement.
Venezuela is struggling with the deepest recession in Latin America and record shortages of basic necessities. About 96 percent of export revenues come from Venezuelan oil, which has dropped from $97 a barrel in April last year to $50 a barrel this year. Inflation in 2014 rose to more than 60 percent.