Monday, June 24, 2024

López Obrador inaugurates ‘mega pharmacy’ to address medication shortages

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday inaugurated the federal government’s new “Well-Being Mega Pharmacy,” a facility he described as “possibly the largest pharmacy in the world.”

The opening of the Megafarmacia del Bienestar — a warehouse from which medications will be supplied to public hospitals and clinics — comes about five months after López Obrador first proposed the creation of a “kind of pharmacy, … a warehouse with all the medicines of the world in reasonable quantities” as a “definitive way out” of the medication shortages that have plagued his government.

Parents of children with cancer protested at the Mexico City airport on Tuesday.
Parents protest at Mexico City’s airport over a lack of chemotherapy medicines available for their children with cancer in a photo from 2021. (File foto/Cuartoscuro)

There have been numerous protests against medication shortages in recent years, the most frequent of which have been demonstrations by parents of children with cancer. Shortages have eased somewhat compared to earlier in the government’s term, but many patients still encounter problems accessing the medications they need.

On Friday, López Obrador said that the establishment of the mega pharmacy will allow “everyone to have the medicines they need” wherever they are in the country and no matter whether they are rich or poor.

All the medications that will be distributed from the new facility will be free for patients, he said.

“This is what makes us different from our adversaries, and hopefully they’ll understand. Health care isn’t a privilege, it’s a right,” López Obrador added.

A large building entrance with a sign reading "Megafarmacia del Bienestar"
The medication distribution hub is near Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA). (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

Where is the mega pharmacy?

The facility is in Huehuetoca, a México state municipality about 60 kilometers north of central Mexico City.

López Obrador said last month that the warehouse’s proximity to the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) will allow medications to be promptly transported to different parts of the country. Huehuetoca borders Zumpango, the municipality where AIFA is located.

How big is it?

López Obrador said at his Friday morning press conference that the facility — formerly a warehouse owned by department store Liverpool — covers an area of 90,000 square meters, but the government subsequently clarified that it’s slightly bigger than that at 94,546 square meters.

The area is equivalent to about six or seven “Zócalos,” López Obrador said referring to the Mexico City central square.

Saying the mega phamarcy is twice as big as the Zócalo would be more accurate given that the central square spans an area of 46,800 square meters.

flask of medicine
Shortages of key drugs have been a serious issue in recent years. (Gobierno de la Ciudad de Mexico/Cuartoscuro)

“It’s possibly the largest pharmacy in the world,” López Obrador said before challenging reporters to find out whether that was indeed the case.

“… The pharmacy is big, big, big, and it will have all the medications that are distributed in our country’s health sector,” he said.

Who will operate it?

The facility — which the government bought for around 1.4 billion pesos (US $82.5 million) — will be run by state-owned medical company Birmex, while the military will assist with the logistics of moving medications around the country.

Birmex director Jens Pedro Lohmann Itutburu said that the mega pharmacy will have the capacity to store 286 million “pieces” of medication.

He said that the facility will seek to resolve requests for medication made by hospitals and clinics affiliated with the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), the State Workers Social Security Institute and the universal IMSS-Bienestar health care programs within three hours.

AMLO greets office workers who sit at computers
López Obrador greets mega pharmacy staff at the medication distribution center’s opening. (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

Individual patients and doctors will also be able to submit requests for medications.

How long will it take to get medications to public hospitals? 

According to the government, public hospitals or clinics that request a certain medication or medications will receive their delivery within 48 hours.

Air Force planes and military vehicles will be used to transport medications.

López Obrador has stressed that medications will even reach hospitals in remote, rural areas of the country in no more than 48 hours.

Will the mega pharmacy actually solve Mexico’s medicine shortage problem?  

The government certainly thinks so, but experts have some concerns.

Mauricio Rodríguez, a professor in the School of Medicine at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), questioned whether the government will have the capacity to purchase and distribute thousands of medications on a national scale from one central location.

He told the Associated Press that the government is opening the mega pharmacy without providing sufficient detail about how the system will operate, especially for urgently-needed medications.

Rodríguez also said that having such a large stockpile of drugs at one site is risky, and could sideline existing distribution systems.

Dr. José Moya, the World Health Organization’s Mexico representative, said that a centralized medicine warehouse could be a solution to the shortages problem, but stressed the importance of a good logistical system to support it.

“If they are considering a warehouse like this, it’s because there is a need, and this has to be very well organized,” he said.

With reports from Milenio, Reforma and AP

4 COMMENTS

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
An overhead view of buildings in Jaguar Park in Tulum

Government says construction on Jaguar Park in Tulum will be done in 2 months

0
Construction is 92% complete, despite delayed environmental permits for a luxury hotel the military is building in the park.
The flags of Canada and Mexico

Canada opens 3 new visa application centers in Mexico

0
Now that most Mexicans need a visa to enter Canada, there is more demand than ever for Canadian visa services.
People shelter from the rain under umbrellas and ponchos in Mexico City

Heavy rain is in the forecast across Mexico this week

1
While meteorologists warn of flooding in low areas, reservoir levels in Tamaulipas and Nuevo León have gotten a much-needed boost.