Rafael Gual
Director General
National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry


Expert Contributor

Can Mexico’s Pharmaceutical Industry Supply the Domestic Market?

By Rafael Gual | Thu, 07/14/2022 - 10:00

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of the pharmaceutical industry around the world. The disruption of supply chains, particularly those related to chemical intermediates, active principle ingredients (APIs), and medicines, generated acute crises in many countries, but even more so in those lacking a local pharma industry.

In several other countries, even those that have a well-established industry, the crisis nevertheless emphasized the need to strengthen the pharma sector so as to reduce dependency on foreign sources. Thus, a number of developmental policies and even protectionist measures were adopted. For example, in the US, our most important commerce and trade partner, President Joe Biden issued a declaration to boost the development of the USMCA (formerly NAFTA) regional industry, both in the supply of medicines as well as of active principles and medical devices, precisely to reduce dependence on these vital goods from Asian countries. Along the same line, considering the consequential complexities that global logistics operations faced from the container crisis, nearshoring was identified as a strategic policy. It clearly follows that in any sector, but more so in one as vulnerable as health, promoting a strong local industry is a highly strategic priority.

The pharmaceutical industry established in Mexico plays a most relevant social role as a supplier of critical products that improve and maintain the health of the population, as well as a prominent economic role because of its interdependence with several other industries chemical, packaging, glass and the enormous technological spillover it produces. In fact, in September 2018, the pharmaceutical industry in our country was declared “strategic and a priority” by both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy. Particularly in an emergency such as the one the world has experienced, both the social and economic aspects are of preponderant importance.

To illustrate the unfaltering social commitment that the pharmaceutical industry has maintained to the Mexican population for decades, suffice it to say that it delivered over 3.6 billion units yearly to the national market, up to 2018. The dire shortage of health supplies experienced since 2019 is not imputable to the industry but to the lack of planning, coordination, and timely execution of procurement processes on the part of the governmental entities in charge. Even so, the pharmaceutical industry has duly attended the call for bids issued by UNOPS for the 2021 and 2022 supply. In both cases, and in spite of the fact that these have been open international processes, which is contrary to the Law of Acquisitions, Leases and Services of the Public Sector (LAASSP), the percentage allocated to companies established in Mexico exceeds 93 percent. As for the private sector, the industry maintained the supply of medicines without interruption during the pandemic, despite facing an increase in demand that had not been observed for a decade, which was caused by the pandemic itself and by the migration of patients from the public sector due to the shortage of medicines.

In terms of economic importance, according to figures from the III Statistical Compendium[1] published by CANIFARMA in 2018, the pharmaceutical industry in Mexico generates 100,000 direct and close to 600,000 indirect jobs, with an approximate market value of close to US$14 billion. Consequently, it also produces an important economic spillover, since according to figures published by INEGI[2], the industry is related to 161 out of 259 industrial sectors, which makes it a major economic driver. The estimated annual investment in our country surpasses MX$40 billion (US$2 billion) and is destined to plant modernization, technological upgrading, and clinical research, which has enormous potential. The pharmaceutical industry in Mexico is the most important in Latin America in terms of manufacturing facilities, increasing its exports every year to Central and South American countries, with an approximate value of US$2 billion, thanks to its quality and competitiveness.

Due to the aforementioned facts and figures, the Mexican pharmaceutical industry, as it was declared in 2018, is strategic, a priority and a preeminent asset for the country. However, it seems that contrary to what is touted by the government in terms of attaining self-sufficiency in all sectors, in the case of medicines it appears to prefer to look abroad for the solution to the problems of supply, so far without success and wasting the valuable infrastructure that exists in the country.

Mexico has a highly competitive, capable, and committed pharmaceutical industry that can guarantee sufficient and timely availability of quality medicines and health supplies to cover the domestic demand, without having to depend on foreign suppliers.


[1] III Compendio Estadístico de la Industria Farmacéutica. CANIFARMA, 2018. www.canifarma.org.mx

[2] https://www.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/productos/prod_serv/contenidos/espanol/bvinegi/productos/nueva_estruc/702825088583.pdf

Photo by:   Rafael Gual