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Parents of cancer patients protest shortage of medications in Mexico City. Parents of cancer patients protest shortage of medications in Mexico City.

Medications shortages: cancer kills 6 children in 5 days in Nuevo León

A 3-year-old with leukemia, 6-year-old with brain cancer among victims

Six children with cancer who were unable to obtain chemotherapy drugs died in Nuevo León in a period of just five days this month.

The minors died between September 4 and 8 in hospitals in Monterrey, according to Verónica González, co-founder of an organization that supports the families of child cancer patients.

Candy Moya, founder of another civil society organization that helps parents buy medications for their sick children, said two of the children who died in Nuevo León were from that state and the other four were from Coahuila and Tamaulipas.

She said there has long been a shortage of drugs but it has worsened this year. Among the medications that have been difficult to obtain and whose prices have significantly increased are dexrazoxane, vincristine and cyclophosphamide.

One of the children who passed away was a 6-year-old boy with brain cancer.

His mother told the newspaper Reforma that her son was diagnosed in August 2019 and that his treatment had been adversely affected since April because some of the medications he needed were unavailable at the University Hospital in Monterrey.

He died on September 4 after his chemotherapy was delayed for weeks due to a lack of cyclophosphamide.

“If they’d treated …[him] on time this wouldn’t have happened,” said Reyna López. “His cancer returned and it consumed him.”

In addition to the five other children who died earlier this month, a 3-old-girl with leukemia died in Monterrey at the end of August after her treatment was affected by drug shortages.

González said that in the eight years since she co-founded Apadrina un Niñ@ (Support a Child), never have so many children died in one place in less than a week.

“The shortage [of medications] has a lot to do with it,” she said, adding that authorities are not giving the issue the attention it deserves. “Enough already, we’ve had this problem for more than a year now.”

Parents of children with cancer have protested against the shortages on numerous occasions since last year, most notably in Mexico City where young patients have also died after their treatment was delayed due to a lack of chemotherapy drugs.

The federal Health Ministry made a commitment in May to end the shortages of several cancer medications but more than three months later the problem has not been fully resolved.

Health Minister Jorge Alcocer said in mid-August that shipments of cancer drugs to last until the end of the year would arrive in the coming weeks but the shortages persist.

His assertion came after the federal government signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services to collaborate on the international purchase of medicines.

President López Obrador said at the time that the agreement would allow Mexico to obtain high quality medications all over the world at low prices and thus put an end to shortages.

Source: Reforma (sp), La Jornada (sp) 

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