Long-standing protests against the shortage of drugs to treat children with cancer continued on Tuesday: Parents of sick boys and girls blocked access to Terminal 1 at Mexico City airport and pledged to stay there. stay until the Federal Ministry of Health resolves the issue.
About 20 mothers and fathers of cancer patients from Mexico City, Mexico State, Veracruz and Aguascalientes joined the protest, according to the newspaper. the universal.
They said the problem of drug shortages had worsened in hospitals where their children are being treated. There is not only a shortage of cancer drugs, but also basic pain relievers, the parents said.
“We went to the National Palace because the Interior Ministry did not give us a solution,” said Omar Hernández Ibarra, president of an association of parents of children with cancer. the universal.
“We know that the Minister of Health is there every Tuesday with the Deputy Minister [health] minister, but we went in vain. The problem is, it’s not just cancer drugs that are missing anymore; paracetamol and diclofenac are now also rare, and in the [Federico Gómez] children’s hospital [in Mexico City], the MRI machine has not worked for months. They refer the children to other hospitals, but this needs to be fixed, ”he said.
“We no longer want to receive false promises. … We will not leave the airport until the health authorities have agreed with a specific date on which we will have the drugs that have not arrived for the chemotherapy of the children and to calm their pain.
the universal reported that at around 6 p.m. Tuesday, health officials gave protesting parents lists of drugs that have been distributed to hospitals across Mexico, but parents said insufficient quantities were sent.
“They give us lists on which it is indicated that they sent oxaliplatin to Campeche, dated May 2021, but they [only] sent 72 pieces; this drug lasts an average of three weeks and then what? It has been a constant: they deliver some medicines, they promise us that there will be no shortage, but then we have to go out and protest, ”said Hernández.
Drug shortages have persisted despite the federal government signing an agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services last July to collaborate on the international procurement of drugs, medical supplies and vaccines .
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Imco), a think tank, said in February that “the lack of a comprehensive drug policy to ensure competition and the proper functioning of the market has posed problems in ensuring access timely people to quality drugs “.
“The implications of this failure have intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic; … Changes in the public procurement system for acquiring medicines, regulatory challenges and the lack of strategic vision in the pharmaceutical sector have caused shortages, cost overruns and a lack of transparency in procurement processes ”, Imco said.
To ensure easy access to medicines in Mexico, the think tank proposed a series of measures, including that the government increase public spending on health, plan the purchase of medicines in advance and “flexibly” and encourage and coordinates the dialogue between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Economy “to build a comprehensive pharmaceutical policy in favor of market development”.
The federal government this week published an executive decree aimed at facilitating direct tendering of public procurement, particularly in the health sector. As a result, the government will have greater freedom to purchase drugs without having to launch a competitive bidding process.
The presidential decree, which made changes to an article of a law on public procurement, “aims to give greater flexibility to public entities to obtain the goods necessary for the exercise of their functions,” the ministry said. of Finance, adding that it will be particularly relevant. purchases in the health sector.
It remains to be seen whether the reform will help end the cancer drug shortages, which have plagued the country and sparked protests since 2019.