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Police scuffle with parents protesting a shortage of cancer drugs. Police scuffle with parents protesting a shortage of cancer drugs.

Hospital chief to be investigated over cancer drug shortage: AMLO

President accuses children's hospital director of 'causing chaos'

The director of the Federico Gómez Children’s Hospital in Mexico City will be investigated over a long-running cancer drug shortage, President López Obrador said on Thursday.

Speaking at his morning news conference, López Obrador said that there is a “hypothesis” that Jaime Nieto Zermeño and other high-ranking hospital officials are responsible for the shortfalls that have plagued the facility since last year.

“The hypothesis is that they’re causing this chaos due to the contracts they have with the company PiSA, which used to supply [the hospital],” he said.

“. . . They want to continue having control of these kinds of medicines [cancer drugs], that’s why the SFP [Secretariat of Public Administration] is going to open an investigation against the director of the Children’s Hospital.”

The federal government implemented a new centralized and consolidated purchasing model last year that it said would allow medicines to be obtained at cheaper prices, but López Obrador claimed that there is still “complicity” between pharmaceutical companies and hospital directors doing “juicy business” with public money.

“. . . This is the case with the medicines for children with cancer, just one company was supplying and unfortunately, that’s why all this is happening,” he said.

López Obrador’s remarks came a day after parents of young cancer victims protested against the shortage of medicines outside the Federico Gómez hospital and at the Mexico City airport.

Parents blocked access to Terminal 1 for more than four hours Wednesday afternoon and clashed with police who attempted to move them on.

“The police hit us, pulled our hair and don’t bother to see that we have children with us,” one mother told the newspaper Milenio.

“It’s as if we were a terrible threat to the government,” Israel Rivas said in a radio interview.

In turn, the Mexico City Secretariat of Citizens Security said in a statement that the protesters had acted aggressively toward police.

Hospital director Nieto and others accused of doing 'juicy business' with drug contracts.
Hospital director Nieto and others accused of doing ‘juicy business’ with drug contracts.

The parents, who also protested at the airport in August last year,  said they decided to demonstrate on Wednesday because they have not received a written response from the government to their questions about the cancer drug shortages.

Later Wednesday, the director of the National Institute of Health for Well-Being (Insabi), a newly created public health department, told the government news agency Notimex that the Federico Gómez hospital now has an adequate supply of cancer medications including vincristine, a chemotherapy drug.

“The medicine is in the hospital . . . There’s no need for them to adopt this attitude,” said Juan Antonio Ferrer, referring to the airport protest.

Hospital director Nieto echoed Ferrer’s statement, saying the hospital had sufficient supplies for one month. He attributed the shortage to problems on the part of a distributor and that legal action was being taken against it.

He denied having any contact with the pharmaceutical company PiSA.

Insabi’s national coordinator for medicine supply said there is currently scant global production of some cancer drugs but rejected any claim that there was a crisis in Mexico.

There is sufficient supply of vincristine, methotrexate and ciprofloxacin, said Alejandro Calderón Alipi, adding that “the priority is taking care of the children.”

Similarly, López Obrador pledged that “there will never be a shortage of medicines, even if we have to buy them in other countries of the world.”

“. . . We have enough funds . . . so that supply is not lacking. The parents wanted a statement from the president about the guarantee of supply, I’ll express it now . . .the president undertakes that medicines for children will not be lacking.”

Source: Reforma (sp), Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp)

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