Pharmacies' Role in COVID-19 Prevention, Treatment Efforts
STORY INLINE POST
Q: Previously, you mentioned that Mexico had not faced medicine shortages. How has that scenario changed?
A: ANAFARMEX members have not experienced any shortages, despite the high demand peaks caused by COVID-19. There where occasions when we did not have the product available as a result of overdemand. However, we always restocked so medicines would again be available. There was never a complete shortage due to non-existent products. Moreover, all of our pharmacies have remained open, offering continuous service and supply.
Q: How much has the consumption of antidepressants and anxiolytics increased during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: UNAM’s statistics show that nearly 16 percent of COVID-19 patients are experiencing memory loss, 13 percent experience anxiety and 12 percent experience depression. Our sales reflect these numbers in the supply for new customers. This subject also reflects the importance of pharmacy-adjacent medical offices (PAMO), which act as the first point of contact for the patient regarding mental health issues. As general practitioners, PAMO doctors receive patients dealing with other aliments coupled with high levels of anxiety. PAMO doctors are referring these patients to specialists and prescribing drugs that can support their condition.
Not all pharmacies have a license to supply psychotropic drugs but as a result of demand, ANAFARMEX is supporting more pharmacies in their efforts to get the license.
Q: How is ANAFARMEX working to secure vaccines for doctors working at PAMOs?
A: Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell asked us for a doctors’ census at the end of January. This was a voluntary census aiming to support the official census of the government. Health is a right in Mexico and the Ministry of Health has guaranteed a vaccine for every Mexican citizen. However, we did want to have our doctors included in the vaccination program for health workers, which began in late December 2020. To date, we have registered 2,750 doctors and we are checking the data to avoid registry duplications. This is because around 5 percent of our doctors also work at public hospitals, such as IMSS or ISSSTE, so they are already contemplated on those lists. Also, the federal government has prioritized some states, communities or municipalities, so we have to make sure our data does not clash with that.
I was summoned by the Mexico City government to work on integrating PAMO doctors into the state’s medical staff vaccination lists. To date, these doctors are contemplated but vaccination moves forward depending on the general availability of the vaccine.
Q: How will COVID-19 impact pharmacy consumption in the long term?
A: As we enter the new normality and the warmer seasons of the year, it is normal to experience shifts in sales of products like antidiarrheals focused on infections but we have yet to see how the demand will behave in this new panorama. However, infections are likely to decline as many people are still at home. Product demand for painkillers, vitamins and OTC solutions for respiratory diseases will remain unchanged.
Q: How will pharmacy sales be impacted by the economic struggles induced by COVID-19?
A: The current macroeconomic numbers are concerning. The general decrease in Mexico’s GDP and the partial shutdowns in industries like automotive have damaged the economy, liquidity and personal finances. Mexico has the highest percentage of out-of-pocket expenditure among OECD countries, according to WHO and the OECD, so we cannot help but worry about an increase in demand following an economic crisis. In this scenario, I think generic medicines and PAMOs are the best option to support patients.
Q: What is ANAFARMEX doing to boost recognition of PAMOs?
A: PAMOs have proven their worth in the healthcare system by offering 170,000 consultations a day. This number is comparable to IMSS. During the COVID-19 crisis, we have kept our numbers stable, redirecting patients with symptoms to the right medical facilities for treatment. Moreover, PAMOs follow regulatory requirements, unlike telemedicine consultations that still lack a regulatory framework. Users can fully trust PAMOs.
Q: What are ANAFARMEX’s expansion plans?
A: We want to partner with technology companies to empower patients in their right to information. Electronic clinical record data does not belong to an institution, it belongs to the individual patient. At ANAFARMEX, we are looking to offer options so patients can use their clinical records at any institution they choose.
ANAFARMEX is a civil association with over 34 years of experience that represents close to 15,000 pharmacies across Mexico. It specializes in supporting small and medium pharmacies but it also represents big regional pharmacy chains.