Cancer medications that the federal Health Ministry promised to deliver to various hospitals over the weekend didn’t arrive, according to an association of parents of children with cancer.
Association president Omar Hernández Ibarra told the newspaper El Universal that the head of the universal healthcare agency Insabi, Juan Ferrer, and the agency’s national coordinator for medicine supply, Alejandro Calderón Alipi, failed to fulfill a pledge made last Wednesday to deliver a range of much-needed cancer drugs to hospitals in cities including Mexico City, Guadalajara, Veracruz, Mérida and Chihuahua.
“The association is made up of at least 50 parents of children with cancer. … We monitor [the distribution of drugs] and we see that they didn’t carry out the supply of the medications,” he said.
The Dr. Ignacio Morones Prieto Central Hospital in San Luis Potosí city was supposed to get 25 essential cancer drugs late last week but only three arrived, according to hospital official Vinicio González Rubio. He said the hospital has faced shortages of more than 600 medications since last year.
Hernández said more protests against drug shortages are likely to be held this week, adding that members of the parents’ association will discuss whether continuing to meet with government officials is worth it given that they have failed to keep their word to resolve the longstanding problem.
“… It’s not fair, it now seems that they’re taunting us, they promise us something and they don’t do it,” he said.
“We can’t go on like this. … [we believe that] the meeting on Wednesday will go ahead but we have to ask all the parents whether they agree with continuing [the dialogue],” Hernández said.
“… It’s now been more than two years that mothers, fathers and other family members of girls and boys with cancer have sought adequate dialogue to resolve our problem. We’ve attended more than 20 meetings with officials who, each time, have committed to resolving our demand but haven’t kept their word,” he said.
“We’re disappointed, fed up, tired and economically and emotionally depleted, but we won’t stop raising our voices.”
The shortage of essential cancer drugs has persisted despite the federal government signing an agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services last July to collaborate on the international purchase of medicines, medical supplies and vaccines.
President López Obrador said at the time that the agreement would allow Mexico to obtain high quality medications and equipment all over the world at low prices and thus put an end to shortages.
But parents of children with cancer have protested ongoing shortages numerous times since then. Earlier this month, parents protesting at the Mexico City airport said there was not only a lack of cancer drugs but also of basic painkillers at the hospitals where their children are treated. A shipment of more than 50,000 units of cancer medications is expected to arrive from Argentina next month but it is unclear whether it will be sufficient to put an end to shortages.
Hernández said that a Health Ministry purchase list he saw didn’t include cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug. He said the ministry’s purchases would only partially combat shortages and noted that drugs will arrive from different countries at different times, which could hinder the comprehensive and timely treatment of children with cancer.
In San Luis Potosí, parents seeking to buy the cancer medications themselves have been unable to find them, said Alma Durán Valero, director of the state branch of the Mexican Association to Help Children with Cancer.