STORY INLINE POST
Q: Why did the decision to open over 3,000 pharmacies make sense when e-pharmacies are also experiencing exponential growth?
A: In 2022, we expect a mass opening of traditional, independent pharmacies, which have been dominating the market since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Retail pharmacies have grown exponentially because they are considered an essential industry. As a result, large investors and investment funds are looking at this segment. Investors already present in the health industry are also betting on the pharmacy segment. Most of the new pharmacies, about 45 percent, will open in Mexico City and the surrounding metropolitan area. The remainder will open in Monterrey and Jalisco. There are also good opportunities in the southeast.
The massive growth of the e-pharmacy segment is mostly a factor in the US, where major chain CVS Pharmacy will close about 10 percent of its retail stores in 2022. This is in response to its market structure and the needs of the US health system and delivery mechanisms, which are very different from those in Mexico. Mexico is not ready to move toward a complete e-pharmacy framework.
Traditional pharmacies are well received by the Mexican market. Independent, small pharmacies build a relationship of trust with their clients. Most people in Mexico also prefer in-person contact when purchasing their medicines because it makes them feel safer. This does not mean we are not entering the digital market. ANAFARMEX’s affiliates are aware of the importance of e-prescriptions, which continue to grow alongside telemedicine. One of our objectives for 2022 is to begin using e-prescriptions and to validate them across the network’s pharmacies.
Q: How are pharmacy-adjacent medical offices disrupting demand as they bring more solutions to the table?
A: ANAFARMEX has intensively worked on the formalization of pharmacy-adjacent medical offices (PAMO) and will continue to do so. Our network includes about 18,000 PAMOs with an average of two doctors per office, for a total of 36,000 doctors. Through these offices, we offer almost 400,000 appointments per day. Doctors at PAMOs are treating mild COVID-19 cases and directing complex cases to specialists.
ANAFARMEX is working with Patrick Devlin, President of the CCE Health Commission, to further train doctors working at PAMOs.
Q: How are you working with the government to continue strengthening your services?
A: We have an important alliance with the government of Mexico City. Minister of Health of Mexico City Oliva López has been supportive of our professionalization efforts and certification processes. We work with the local government and others on pharmacovigilance to ensure public safety.
Q: Given the ongoing medicine and medical supply shortages, how have pharmacies continued to empower patients by providing them affordable products?
A: Medicine prices are dependent on the country’s economy and local regulations. In terms of the economy, Mexico is facing 7.3 percent inflation, which will undoubtedly impact medicine prices. On the regulatory front, prices on medications are regulated by the authorities so it is unlikely that the private sector will increase them.
However, there are still shortages of seasonal antibiotics, such as ceftriaxone, and OTCs like aderogyl. The reasons for the shortages are seasonal demand, which rises in the winter, and the ongoing supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. These shortages will affect the country as the number of omicron cases increases and the winter season continues.
Q: The US has had a successful COVID-19 vaccination program through an affiliation with pharmacies. Could this be replicated in Mexico?
A: Our efforts to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic began with the offer of rapid antigen tests. It was important for us to include testing within our services because of its value and the overwhelming pressure that our health system is under.
As for vaccination, we are available and happy to support the government’s vaccination campaigns if and when they need us. The president has stated that vaccination is and will be a responsibility of the government but we continue to offer our support if they need it.
Mexico’s Pharmacy Association (ANAFARMEX) represents close to 15,000 pharmacies across the country. It is composed mainly of small and medium pharmacies although it also represents big regional chains.