The pharmaceutical industry has told the federal government that it won’t take responsibility for problems created by its new model for purchasing and distributing medications, including medicine shortages.
Industry leaders took advantage of the attendance of the president’s chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, and Health Secretary Jorge Alcocer at an industry meeting to warn the government of the negative consequences of the new system.
The government announced a new centralized and consolidated purchasing model last month that it says will allow medicines to be obtained at cheaper prices.
Medicines will be purchased from a wider range of suppliers and the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) will be responsible for their distribution to public hospitals and health care clinics.
The government says the new model will help stamp out corruption in the purchase and distribution of medicines.
However, the pharmaceutical industry is skeptical that the model will function effectively and has already warned that IMSS doesn’t have the capacity to adequately store and transport the massive quantities of drugs required by patients in the public health system.
The chairman of the board of the National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Canifarma) said yesterday that industry leaders told Romo that when the new model fails “we don’t want to be [held] responsible.”
“We told him in a very clear and blunt way,” Rodrigo Puga said.
He said the government is already blaming the pharmaceutical industry for medicine shortages that have plagued public hospitals and health clinics in recent months but denied that drug companies are at fault.
The government’s health sector budget cuts have caused the shortages, according to state authorities and medical personnel.
Puga said that Canifarma has explained the reasons for the shortages in 40 letters to the president’s office but government officials haven’t taken any notice of them.
In an opening address to the pharmaceutical industry convention, the chairman called for “clear rules” to govern the new purchasing model.
“In addition to coordination between the public and private sectors, the change in the purchasing model for public [medicine] requires greater planning, clear rules and a solid legal framework that provides certainty to the participants and contributes to the strengthening of this mechanism in the future,” Puga said.
For his part, Romo described the public health system as “disastrous” and blamed its poor state on neglect and mismanagement of federal governments over the past 70 years.
He said it was inconceivable that there is not a public health system that provides care for everyone.
“We have to really build something that we will never regret, you can count on us. I’m at your orders here and if we fail, we all fail and if we do well – as we’re going to – we’ll do well together and another thing: I’m going to go at your speed, as fast as you want,” Romo said.
Romo and Health Secretary Alcocer signed a letter of intent in which the government committed to continue to collaborate with the sector.
Despite that undertaking, federal authorities continued to face criticism and questioning about their approach to purchasing medications under the administration of President López Obrador.
Ángel Sosa, a member of the Canifarma supply commission, took aim at the bidding process that the government launched earlier this week.
“It’s a tendering process that favors the reduction of prices, that establishes conditions that are difficult, and in some cases impossible, for the industry to meet,” he said.
“To participate knowing beforehand that you’re not going to be able to comply is schizophrenic. There’s no way to present an offer that is financially sound for both parties.”
Enrique Martínez Moreno, general director of the Pharmaceutical Institute (Inefam), said there was a 23% shortage of medicines across the nation in the first quarter of 2019 as a result of the government’s reduction of purchases.
“What was bought in the first quarter of 2019 should have been at least equal to 2018 but that wasn’t the case . . . maybe that’s what we’re suffering from. The [23% shortage] is an average, we see states in which it is worse. . .” he said.
People with HIV or AIDS have been hit particularly hard by the lack of antiretroviral drugs.
The Inefam chief said the National Center for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS only obtained 60,847 medicine orders between January and March compared to 238,176 in the same period last year – a 74% decline.
Martínez added that the government has slashed this year’s budget for the purchase of medications by 12 billion pesos (US $628.8 million).
“There is a significant reduction of 14% with respect to last year’s budget, which was above 81 billion pesos, while this year it’s expected to be 69 billion,” he said.
Martínez claimed that the medication prices listed in the government’s tender are lower than they should be, adding that he didn’t know how they had been decided.
David Palacios, a former IMSS administrative director, charged that the social security institute doesn’t have the logistical capacity to distribute the government’s medicine purchases, a claim that the chief of Canifarma also made this week.
“The problem is logistics . . . I don’t know how IMSS is going to do it,” he said.
Source: Milenio (sp)