Pharmaceutical companies are attempting to prevent the federal government from buying cancer medications, President López Obrador claimed Tuesday.
“There are signs that they’re blocking us [from making purchases], not just in Mexico but also abroad. The companies here make agreements with foreign companies … so that they don’t comply with our contracts,” he told reporters at his regular news conference.
The president’s claim came a day after he described the robbery last week of almost 38,000 doses of cancer drugs for children as “very strange.”
“We had a hard time obtaining these medications; we brought them [to Mexico] from Argentina; it’s very strange that these medications were stolen from a warehouse,” López Obrador said.
He said Monday and Tuesday that the government will fulfill its commitment to supply medications to children with cancer despite the robbery, which occurred last Wednesday at the Mexico City facilities of pharmaceutical company Novag Infancia.
The stolen medications, which included a range of chemotherapy drugs, were to be distributed to public health facilities by Novag.
The theft occurred as longstanding shortages of cancer medications for children continue to plague the country.
López Obrador said Tuesday that he was unsure about how the government would go about obtaining cancer drugs given the pharmaceutical company “conspiracy” but asserted Monday that “we’re permanently trying to supply these medications to all hospitals.”
“We’re not inhumane, we have feelings and we know what children [with cancer] and any [sick] person suffer if they don’t have medications,” he said.
Although López Obrador claimed that he didn’t know how the government would obtain future consignments, his administration signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services in July to collaborate on the international purchase of medicines, medical supplies and vaccines.
Meanwhile, a group of parents of children with cancer believe there was no robbery.
“We don’t know much about this implausible robbery, our position is that we don’t believe it,” said Israel Rivas, spokesman for a national group of parents of child cancer patients.
He said in an interview that the warehouse from which the medications were apparently stolen is not a run-of-the-mill facility but rather “an enormous refrigerated room with a lot of security measures.”
An “alphanumeric passcode” is required to enter the facility, he said.
At a press conference in Mexico City on Wednesday during a protest against the shortage of cancer medications, Rivas said that parents don’t believe the government’s story that a robbery occurred because it has “systematically lied to us.”
“First it said that the shortage of medications was caused by a monopoly, then because … [of] corruption, then because there was an international shortage and now they come out with … [the story] that the medications were stolen. Would you journalists believe this tale?”
“Forty thousand doses [were supposedly stolen]! It’s unbelievable what happened, incredible, not to be believed. The truth is I’m astonished. We don’t believe the version the government is giving us …” Rivas said.
The spokesman, whose daughter has cancer, said that almost 1,700 children have died due to cancer medication shortages and warned that the situation will worsen due to the purported theft.
Andrea Rocha, a lawyer for the parents, said that a complaint in relation to the supposed robbery would be filed with the federal Attorney General’s Office today against López Obrador, health sector regulator Cofepris – which announced the theft in a health alert – and Novag Infancia.
She said that “there is not a single piece of real evidence” that the theft actually occurred and no proof that a criminal complaint has been filed in connection with the alleged crime. Rocha questioned why the Argentine-made medications were in Novag’s possession when López Obrador has said that the government itself will manage the distribution of medications to public health facilities.
At the same press conference, parents of children with cancer announced that they were aiming to collect 1.2 million signatures of support for a petition calling for a reform to the constitution in order to ensure that adequate medical treatment for cancer patients is guaranteed.
Rivas said the aim is to “comprehensively protect” all children who currently have cancer as well as future patients. He said the reform would also protect families “from an economic point of view.”
In a subsequent media interview, Rivas said that parents of children with cancer are unconcerned about where the government sources medications as long as they are of high quality.
“Hopefully there will be no [further] shortages. … We’re not interested in where they get [the medications], whether it’s India, Argentina, Mars or another planet. As long as they’re [high] quality, bring them from wherever.”