President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) wants to achieve universal health coverage in Mexico by 2021 and is not ruling out the joint purchase of drugs through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). For this reason, the Secretary of Health Jorge Alcocer met in mid-January with the director of PAHO, Carissa Etienne. Alcocer contended that in coordinating purchases with PAHO, Mexico would ensure quality services and free drugs for its entire population; Etienne, for her part, reaffirmed PAHO’s commitment to working with Mexico and to maintain its regional leadership in health.
While PAHO’s Revolving Fund system makes it incumbent on each member country to take responsibility for mobilizing and delivering drugs throughout their territory, Etienne believes that Mexico’s possible incorporation into this tool would help increase drugs offer and lower costs. In recent weeks, the government announced that the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) will centrally coordinate Mexico’s participation in this type of process to access better prices for the purchase of drugs and improve the provision of supplies during the six-year mandate.
However, in order to play an important role in PAHO’s Revolving Funds – be an active partner of it in matching the health agenda to the continent’s priorities and realities – Mexico must be mindful of two factors. First, in mid-January AMLO stated that the nation suffers a drugs shortage as a result corruption in the purchasing processes overseen by previous governments. The president, basing his remarks on findings of the Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF), said the country’s control and management systems are affected by a lack of transparency. Second, the terms of trade agreements relating to intellectual property that have already been signed by Mexico (such as the Mexico-United States-Canada Treaty) hinder access to drugs needed by the population.
PAHO’s Etienne cited cooperation with Mercosur as a precedent, with which there have been effective negotiations over the cost of patented pharmaceutical products. Following Mercosur’s example would allow Latin American countries to expand access to drugs, which is PAHO’s main interest and an objective that Mexico could help achieve by joining the purchasing mechanisms proposed by the entity. In this way, it was argued, not only would AMLO’s government benefit from being aided in fulfilling a campaign promise, but also other Latin American countries would have access to better prices through the Revolving Funds.