Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How many prescriptions has AMLO’s ‘mega pharmacy’ filled?

It opened with significant fanfare in late December, but in its first four months of operation the federal government’s “Well-Being Mega Pharmacy” didn’t even come close to fulfilling the function it was designed to fulfill.

In fact, the facility officially called the Federal Center for the Storage and Distribution of Health Supplies (Cefedis) only dispensed 341 prescriptions between December 29 and April 29, according to the El Universal newspaper, which submitted a freedom of information request to state-owned medical company Birmex, the pharmacy’s operator.

Pharmacy warehouse with workers in it
The pharmacy, which AMLO said could be the “largest” in the world, opened in December. (Cuartoscuro)

In other words, the megafarmacia — a warehouse that supplies medications to public hospitals and clinics, and to individual patients directly — filled an average of just 2.7 prescriptions per day in its first four months of operation.

That’s hardly an impressive record for a facility President Andrés Manuel López Obrador described as “possibly the largest pharmacy in the world.”

At the inauguration of the pharmacy, located in the México state municipality of Huehuetoca, López Obrador said that the establishment of the facility would allow “everyone to have the medicines they need” wherever they are in the country and no matter whether they are rich or poor.

When he first proposed the creation of “a warehouse with all the medicines of the world in reasonable quantities,” he touted it as a a “definitive way out” of the medication shortages that have plagued his government.

What’s the problem?

El Universal reported in late January that Cefedis had stocks equivalent to less than 1% of the drugs it was designed to offer.

Zoé Robledo, director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), a major health care provider, dismissed the report as “ill-intentioned” and insisted that the mega pharmacy had all the medicines it needs.

Despite that claim, El Universal reported on Tuesday that the facility’s “attempt to solve the shortage of medications in the country” has so far “failed” due to its own “lack of drugs.”

It said that the mega pharmacy didn’t purchase any drugs prior to its inauguration, explaining that its stock was supplied “on loan” by IMSS, the State Workers’ Social Security Institute (ISSSTE) and the universal health scheme known as IMSS-Bienestar.

Protesters hold signs demanding medicines
Protests against medicine shortages have occurred throughout AMLO’s term, and the Well-Being Mega Pharmacy is supposed to help resolve these issues. (Cuartoscuro)

The newspaper said that in its first four months of operation, the mega pharmacy received more than 95,000 telephone calls.

More than 16,000 of those calls were made by people who had previously contacted Cefedis to request a medication. They called again to follow up on their request as they hadn’t received their order. The data supplied to El Universal by Birmex indicates that the vast majority of those people have not yet received the medication they requested.

Cefedis was unable to dispatch medications requested in more than 27,000 calls because the people asking for the drugs either didn’t have a valid prescription or weren’t able to provide their CURP ID number, El Universal said.

Based on the Birmex data, it appears unlikely that the mega pharmacy would have been able to distribute the majority of the medications requested even if those making the requests had prescriptions and/or their CURP numbers.

Of the 341 prescriptions the facility did successfully dispense, 210 were distributed to ISSSTE patients, 129 to IMSS-Bienestar patients and two to IMSS patients.

Birmex said that Cefedis was seeking to fill an additional 1,168 prescriptions by sourcing the requested medications from IMSS, ISSSTE or IMSS-Bienestar.

It is clear that many medications the mega pharmacy is asked to supply are not reaching patients in a timely manner, as federal authorities pledged they would.

“The Well-Being Mega Pharmacy is a MEGA-FAILURE, it only dispenses 2.7 prescriptions per day,” Marko Cortés, the national president of the National Action Party, wrote on the X social media platform on Tuesday.

“That’s López Obrador’s Mexico and the health crisis [the federal government] caused. The good news is that [opposition presidential candidate] Xóchitl Gálvez is coming,” he said.

With reports from El Universal

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