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News Article

Controversies Hound Public Health Sector

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 07/13/2022 - 12:19

Mexico’s public health sector is being affected by several controversies, with the spotlight being on the General Health Council, Birmex and ISSSTE.

The General Health Council is being affected by alleged irregularities, with Animal Politico reporting that some of its employees are being accused of improperly facilitating the addition of medicines and medical devices into its Basic Lists. Moreover, the news outlet reports of some internal discrepancies generated between the role that corresponds to the Council in Health policies and “the power that López-Gatell wants to monopolize, alleging that there are functions that are duplicated between this body and its undersecretary.”

Animal Político also reported that Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell paused the national survey of rare diseases, which was being promoted by civil society organizations and pharmaceutical companies. This registry aimed to provide a wider scope of these diseases, opening the door to multidisciplinary management that will provide more certainty for the Mexican health budget, explained to MBN Nicolás Linares, Executive Director and General Manager, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical. “This census aims to improve the system and treatment for patients suffering from these diseases,” said Linares.

Mexican pharmaceutical Birmex also entered the spotlight after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador assigned to it the distribution of medicines and health supplies across the country. However, media has reported that Birmex does not have the infrastructure or the human resources necessary to mobilize these products, and it has not invested in these areas.

Birmex did manage the distribution of over 100 tons of medicines for COVID-19 patients and negotiated the acquisition of millions of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Sinovac Biotech and Sputnik V. However, its primary task of distributing medications has not been fully achieved. For example, due to the lack of available medicines, IMSS failed to fulfill over 43 million prescriptions in 2021.

ISSSTE is being accused by a former employee accused of omissions during the administration of Pedro Zenteno, General Director, ISSSTE, which allegedly led to the illegal payment of over MX$800 million (US$40.2 million) to the pharmaceutical company Selecciónes Médicas del Centro.

While the legal investigation is still taking place, Selecciónes Médicas del Centro returned to ISSSTE over MX$950 million (US$45.5 million) that it had obtained in an alleged fraudulent operation. ISSSTE’s Administration Directorate had already identified the vouchers to justify the payments, which led it to file a complaint with Mexico’s General Attorney’s Office (FGR).

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst