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News Article

UNOPS Brings Savings, Unfulfilled Contracts, Medicine Shortages

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 06/01/2021 - 15:05

Mexico’s healthcare system saved 20 percent of its 2021 budget assigned for medicines, said Minister of Health Jorge Alcocer last week, thanks to its purchase of medicines through UNOPS. However, pharmaceutical representatives warn that the new system delayed purchases and could compromise medicine supply.

Mexico saved MX$11.88 million (US$600 million) thanks to UNOPS purchases, explained the Minister of Health, who claimed that this mechanism “guarantees the supply and access to quality drugs for the main diseases that affect the Mexican population.” However, during 2020 and 2021 many patients had denounced medicine shortages at public institutions, reports media. MBN interviewees have indicated that contracts for the purchase of medicines had also been left unfulfilled.

Rafael Gual, Director General of CANIFARMA, told MBN that the bidding process carried out by UNOPS did not look promising. “The tenders were carried out late. The first two months of the year (2021), have passed and more than 50 percent of the contracts of the bids for patented and critical supply products for the first quarter have not been signed, which has compromised supply.”

Marco Ruggiero, General Manager, Chiesi Mexico shared with MBN that “UNOPS is internationally recognized for its medicine supply, transparency and clear rules, which are positive assets and raised the expectations for this year’s supply. However, we are facing the same scenario as last year, with unpaid contracts.” Ruggiero said that as of April 2021 “INSABI’s payment process has been frozen since the second half of 2019.”

Earlier this year, Mexico saw dozens of demonstrations, hundreds of appeals and over 550 complaints to the CNDH claiming that there has been a shortage of medicines since 2019, reports Animal Politico. The NGO Zero Shortage also indicated a shortage and on February 20 the Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF) confirmed this finding. ASF reported that “the tender LA-012000991-E82-2019, corresponding to the consolidated acquisition of medicines in 2019, did not have clear and comprehensive information on the budget year and the orders placed to guarantee sufficient purchases to meet the demand for medicines.”

A large part of the shortage can be attributed to INSABI’s logistic gaps, which left unclear storage and transportation instructions, claims Proceso. Furthermore, INSABI made hospitals and institutes responsible for their own medicines for the time being. Institutes also had to use their own logistic resources but this was recently changed after the delivery complications seen during the first months of 2021. So far, INSABI assigned only two logistic operators to deliver medicines to almost the entire country:  Medica Farma Arcar and Vantage Servicios Integrales de Salud.

UNOPS tenders present three challenges, which Galicia Abogados’ Counsel and Senior Associate, Lisandro Herrera and Luis Marin, Senior Associate, broke down for MBN:

  1. Before, all players in the pharmaceutical industry played under the same rules. Now, they have to learn to play with INSABI’S new partner, UNOPS. Aside from having to learn a completely different framework, companies had to understand the rules between the federal government and UNOPS, which are comprised in a general agreement that is not public.
  2. There are new problems with transparency and management of information as companies now submit information to UNOPS, which then passes it to the government. The information could later be publicly available as part of the government’s transparency obligations.
  3. There are changes in contract compliance derived from the changes in the acquisition process. The government is delaying orders, which contributes to medicine shortages at public institutions.
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst