Criticism of the public health system over medicine shortages has become a recurring issue. In many cases, the shortage obliges people who suffer from chronic diseases to appeal to support networks, social organizations and private pharmacies.
It is estimated that the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) increased the percentage of assorted recipes from 5% to 12% from 2019 to 2020, which means that more than 10 million recipes were not sorted. Adding in the decline of medical care for chronic patients who stopped visiting their IMSS clinic and the situation becomes even more complicated.
However, the shortage of drugs is not limited to public entities. The private sector, which groups a network with more than 40,000 pharmacies, is starting to look affected by the absence of medicines that the population needs.
We have detected a 15 percent shortage, which we believe has been tripled in recent weeks. Two out of 10 patients are prescribed alternative medicines to their usual treatment by their doctors.
Some important brands missing from the private sector are Afrin (a nasal decongestant), Caltrate (calcium and vitamin D) and Riopan (an antacid).
This considerably increases the out-of-pocket expense for patients and their relatives by more than a 70 percent.
Logistical difficulties are among the elements that delay supply. In the past, the transportation and the distribution of medicines were left to private businesses with more than 250,000 square meters of storage facilities and 1,000 transport units to manage the cold chain, a necessary condition for many substances. This is in contrast to the installed capacity of the federal government.
The private initiative dispersed nearly 2.4 billion units each year, which demonstrates that we have the capacity to guarantee supply. On a monthly basis, this is about 200 million units that can be distributed to every state institution.
Another equally important element is that the pandemic has caused a shortage in raw materials globally. Mexico imports more than 80 percent of its raw material needs.
Finally, I believe the entities involved with the state and private initiative should think about their actual positioning. On the one hand, our industry has been subject to claims of corruption in distribution or manufacturing without any specific cases being named, no public complaints and no proof or investigation underway.
On the other hand, for many years and under different governments, the business sector has been delegated the responsibility for logistics and production, from manufacturers to brokers and businesses specialized in the supply of medicines. Today, that has changed. That’s why the work of convincing the government of the importance of our sector should be constant. An example of a good dealmaker in the private sector is Carlos Slim, who with his experience and modesty has won over President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the recent case of the collapse of a stretch of Line 12 of the subway in Mexico City.
In every crisis exists an opportunity. I’m sure there is human talent in our industry that can succeed in the constructive dialogue that has been difficult to achieve during the 4th transformation.