The President of Mexico has announced that a new “Super Pharmacy” will be established to provide medication to the entire population.
MEXICO CITY —
On Friday, Mexico’s leader opened a large “supermarket-style pharmacy” in an effort to assist patients across the nation who are informed they require a particular medication, but their healthcare facility does not have it.
Instead of sending supplies directly to hospitals, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s strategy involved setting up a large warehouse on the outskirts of Mexico City. From there, supplies could be centralized and distributed to hospitals across the country.
On Friday, López Obrador stated that the pharmacy will be extensive and contain all necessary medications for the health system.
The pharmacy aims to supplement nearby healthcare facilities. In the event that a patient cannot obtain necessary medications at a local hospital, the patient, their doctor, or the pharmacist can arrange for delivery from the 40,000-square-meter warehouse located in Mexico City.
President López Obrador promised that either the military or the state-operated pharmaceutical company Birmex will transport the medications by either ground or air within a timeframe of 24 to 48 hours.
Can Mexico overcome its track record of poor regulation, procurement, storage, and distribution of pharmaceuticals? The overly centralized system has not been beneficial in various aspects in Mexico’s history.
The most apparent aspect of this issue is the parents of children with cancer, who often organize demonstrations because they claim that obtaining chemotherapy and other medications has become increasingly difficult in recent years.
Otherwise healthy individuals have died from the issues. Due to difficulties in acquiring sufficient amounts of morphine, anesthesiologists in Mexico have been forced to carry their own doses of the sedative and extract multiple doses from a single vial for regular procedures.
This has resulted in the vials becoming contaminated, causing outbreaks of meningitis in two states in Mexico. These outbreaks have caused the deaths of numerous individuals, including some Americans who received treatment at clinics in Matamoros, a city located across from Brownsville, Texas.
In the US, where there is an abundance of morphine, doctors are instructed to extract one dose from a vial and discard the remaining amount.
In 2021, López Obrador made a significant attempt to acquire COVID-19 vaccines. The military was utilized to distribute the vaccines while volunteers administered them. By the end of the year, anyone in Mexico who desired a vaccine received one at no cost.
Attempting to duplicate the model of centralized government procurement and military deployment on a nationwide level for numerous medications is not equivalent, as stated by Mauricio Rodríguez-Dorantes, a faculty member at Mexico’s National Autonomous University School of Medicine.
Rodríguez-Dorantes expressed concern over the government’s decision to open a centralized warehouse without addressing the operational details, particularly for medications that are urgently needed. He emphasized that having all drugs stored in one location comes with added risks and may disrupt current distribution systems.
For years, there have been instances of controversy surrounding the disposal of millions of dollars’ worth of expired medications at warehouses, leaving hospitals unable to access them.
Before López Obrador, the country’s medicine regulatory agency, referred to as Cofepris, was plagued with corruption. Regulators would deliberately withhold applications for new medicine approvals for extended periods and would request bribes in order to grant approval.
Regulators in Mexico frequently issue warnings regarding the sale of counterfeit or fake medications for various ailments such as cancer and heart disease. These products are often packaged and labeled to closely resemble the authentic versions, but they may not contain any actual medication.
The illegal market for medication is widespread and profitable in Mexico due to doctors frequently advising patients or their loved ones to purchase drugs from private pharmacies when they are not accessible at public hospitals.
According to Zero Shortages, a civic organization, the number of reports on counterfeit medicines has risen by 142% from 2021 to 2022.
However, there are certain issues that can be attributed to López Obrador himself. Fueled by his frustration over what he perceived as exaggerated profits earned by drug suppliers and importers, the president opted to exclude private companies and personally mandated that the government purchase all medications directly.
Due to a lack of infrastructure, connections, and experience, the government turned to the World Health Organization for assistance in procuring necessary supplies. However, despite this support, Mexico was still unable to acquire certain specialized medication.
According to Zero Shortages, the amount of unfilled prescriptions in Mexico increased from 1.5 million in 2019 to 22 million in 2021. This rise may have been influenced by disruptions caused by COVID-19.
However, in the year 2022, approximately 12.5 million prescriptions were not filled.