Ailing Venezuelan Boy Gets Liver Medicine After Donation

An 11-month-old Venezuelan boy awaiting a liver transplant received a one-year supply of medicine his father struggled to find due to shortages of pharmaceuticals and protests in the South American nation.

New York-based Retrophin Inc. sent the supplies of ursodeoxycholic acid after executives read how the boy’s father, Joel Correa, had to take eight-hour trips to the Colombian border to buy the medicine. The drug keeps his toddler’s liver working until a transplant can be carried out.

The biopharmaceutical company learned of the boy’s plight from a Bloomberg News article on Feb. 14. Delivery of the medicine was delayed by a week as protests in Venezuela over shortages of goods, including medicine, disrupted transport.

“This has been a blessing to us,” Correa, a 26-year-old tool salesman, said in a phone interview from San Cristobal. “A whole family and many hearts are grateful for the help with the treatment,” Correa wrote separately in an e-mail to Retrophin executives.

Chronic shortages of basic goods have sparked the world’s highest rate of inflation and provoked violent protests on a daily basis in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities since Feb. 12, killing at least 21 people. Health workers marched today in Caracas as demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro’s government continue.

After being contacted by an investor citing Correa’s difficulties, Retrophin Chief Executive Officer Martin Shkreli and Chief Medical Officer Horacio Plotkin arranged for a supply of the medicine, which Retrophin does not manufacture, to be shipped on Feb. 28.

‘Our Obligation’

“It is our obligation to take responsibility for the community of people that we have joined by being drug developers,” Shkreli said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News.

Retrophin focuses on development of drugs to treat debilitating and life-threatening diseases including pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disorder.

The delivery means Correa can avoid trips through security checkpoints in the mountainous border region dividing Venezuela from the Colombian border town of Cucuta, where he paid five times the price to secure his son’s medicine.

“Traveling to Cucuta to find medicines is even harder now with the protests,” Correa said.