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News Article

Protests for Medicines Reach the IACHR

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 07/21/2021 - 17:18

Despite being accused of plotting a “coup,” parents of children with cancer continue protesting the shortage ontological medicines going on since the early 2020. During the past month, the protests escalated and due to the lack of response from Mexico’s government, parents took their complaints to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Government officials have sharply criticized these protests. Deputy Minister of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, linked the manifestations to a coup d'état saying “this idea of children with cancer who do not have drugs, we see it more and more positioned, more like a campaign (…) of international right-wing groups that are looking for a wave of sympathy from the Mexican citizens with an almost coup vision."

During the morning press conference of June 20, Minister of Health Jorge Alcocer said that parents’ concerns were “valid of course, but exaggerated and used for other purposes.” On that same conference, Alcocer shared that UNOPS could not acquire all kinds of medicines so Mexico’s government bought the missing 950 keys, 639 corresponding to medicines and 311 to healing materials, for MX$31.55 million (US$1.56 million), which represented savings of MX$7.18 million (US$356,149). He stressed that “the most difficult oncological drugs to come by, not just now but during the past decades, are those for children with cancer.”

The shortages of medications for pediatric oncology have been a constant problem for many years. The Chamber of Deputies Bulletin No.0146 published in September 2018, months before the changes on the acquisition purchase process implemented by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, states that “within the last weeks there has been a shortage in various cancer care centers in the country and according to information from the Mexican College of Medical Oncology, this shortage affects both the public and private sectors." The bulletin explained that this was a global crisis caused by the closure of a Chinese global supplier of chemical compounds for pharmaceuticals, which left many in the sector without supplies, “and in Mexico the laboratories that manufactured it were left without raw materials and without possibility of supplying the health sector.”

The current shortage crisis, according to Alcocer, has been sorted out by government institutions. Alcocer also explained that in just 37 days the government increased the participation of suppliers, despite the fact that it often takes a minimum of 60 days to do so. The government obtained further savings thanks to negotiations with other players besides UNOPS for the 143 keys that could not be supplied through this organization. “In those 143 keys we saved MX$290 million (US$15 million),” said Alcocer.

A day after this morning press conference, parents of children with cancer said that there is no exaggeration and reiterated that the right to health is an individual guarantee contemplated in Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution. “If he (Alcocer) thinks that we exaggerate when requesting medications, he is totally wrong,” said Israel Rivas, spokesperson for the National Movement for Health, composed by parents of children with cancer. Rivas explained that the movement has placed a formal complaint with IACHR.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst