Rafael Gual
Director General
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CANIFARMA: National Pharma Industry Open to Dialogue

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:38

Q: Has the industry embraced the new centralized purchasing scheme and what could be done to improve this model and ensure seamless logistics?

A: CANIFARMA is looking for a much better tender process for medications in 2021. In 2020, just 30 percent of medicine demand was consolidated; the other 70 percent is being purchased through direct adjudication. The latter mechanism does not allow for fair market competition and transparency. It is also inefficient because the industry is not preparing its stock for the long run but just adding a patch to address what comes up. The industry is very concerned because it can no longer foresee the demand in order to plan production. Companies cannot prepare the right API orders and materials to produce medications because demand is neither clear nor visible.

There would seem to be inexperience on the part of the authorities with the tender processes. There is a lack of awareness of how pharmaceutical production and inventory works. Medicine production is complex; no company produces medications without a contract because of expiry dates and storage requirements. This is a very serious matter. However, with the right planification, dates and deadlines, the pharmaceutical industry can work and supply perfectly. Besides industry struggles, an unclear tender process for medicine creates a risk for adequate supply.

The government’s international tender for acquiring medicines was another concern for the industry. Attempting to cover the demand externally, the government organized an international tender but the response was poor. Additionally, the president recently announced that the government will acquire medicines under WHO guidelines, which is an even more concerning statement because of what this implies. Purchasing through WHO, which is expressly focused on covering medicine supply for poor countries afflicted by tropical or regional conditions, is not good news for a developing country like Mexico that has a well-established pharmaceutical industry and that produces according to strict global quality standards. WHO’s stock targets poor countries in precarious condition that do not have any medicine access at all, which means its guidelines and regulations tend to be more lax, unlike COFEPRIS’ strict regulations for the companies that operate in Mexico.

A governmental action of this sort would hurt the national medicine supply greatly in terms of competition, quality and safety of the medication. Moreover, it is not likely that the government will find the right medications to respond to national therapeutic needs in WHO’s inventory because it is mainly focused on diseases prevalent in poor countries.

Right now, CANIFARMA is working to create a framework that will allow for fair competition, attempting to promote an open dialogue with the government and offer support in securing medicine supply. There is already a forum set for August to discuss this new purchasing scheme. We will actively participate and represent the industry. CANIFARMA is seeking to positively impact the availability of medicines for the patients, as well as meeting the government needs and foster the development of the industry.

The pharmaceutical industry is trying to show its willingness to be an ally and we are constantly trying to deliver that message to authorities. We are willing to create and promote trust between us for the good of the patients in Mexico.

Q: How is CANIFARMA contributing to guaranteeing healthcare?

A: We are constantly working on ways to introduce new technologies to the country to boost medicine supply and treatment access. To date, the global panorama of medicine and API supply has been disrupted as a result of COVID-19. However, the national industry has successfully overcome those challenges and secured medicine supply, which is a very significant effort in our favor. 

Even before the pandemic, Mexico had a troubling process for medicine acquisition with the new centralized purchasing scheme and the integration of INSABI. CANIFARMA and the industry it represents are able to respond and cover those needs. However, clear information and organization are necessary for the industry to supply medications. We have reached out to the Ministry of Economy to support the industry as we are large employment generators, talent retainers and investment attractors.

Q: How has CANIFARMA adapted its goals to the general changes in Mexico’s political environment?

A: CANIFARMA is actively seeking to build communication channels with the authorities in Mexico to create a smooth and favorable environment for pharmaceutical companies to work and develop operations in Mexico. Sadly, the current COVID-19 context, has delayed the growth of our project to boost research in the country despite having around 14 agreements with different hospitals in Mexico. Moreover, regulatory processes have slowed down significantly, which also affects research. Clinical research in Mexico is very limited, which is discouraging for those looking to undertake research projects in Mexico.

A significant setback is the committee for new molecules, for example, which has come to a virtual standstill in the authorization of new technologies and medicines. There are now 120 molecules waiting for approval and this heavily affects access to new technologies and, more alarmingly, access to healthcare. CANIFARMA has been seeking to reactivate this committee because of its importance and what it means to our country.

Q: What are the industry’s most emblematic efforts to combat COVID-19 and how does CANIFARMA contribute to those efforts?

A: Securing medicine supply at all levels has been a priority, especially considering the most in-demand products used to treat COVID-19 symptoms. There is still no cure nor approved treatment for the virus but there are many medications being studied that could help patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

CANIFARMA has also donated protection equipment for medical professionals on the frontline of the pandemic, as well as ventilators. Moreover, we created a fund to raise money, which has allowed us to keep providing staff with protection equipment through FunSalud.

Q: How might COVID-19 and USMCA transform into a positive for the pharmaceutical industry in Mexico?

A: I see this as the right opportunity for Mexico to take on API production. API production is valuable for the supply chain. This could reactivate the pharmochemical industry in the country and it would mean more opportunities for Mexico and for the region, even. Local API production would give us advantages and increase our market positioning as we are geographically closer to markets that are our primary partners in many other industries but that turn to China and India when it comes to APIs. Research is also an area of opportunity, which is why we keep reaching out to the authorities to grow our capabilities and establish collaboration.

I do think the pandemic has taught us to work together as an industry and to break the barriers that kept us from entering into active and quick alliances that benefit the community.


The National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (CANIFARMA) works to develop the sector in Mexico with three main objectives: sanitary regulation, research and innovation and economic development and industry policies

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst