July 30, 2020 / 9:17 PM / 4 days ago

Mexican president orders creation of state-run medicine agency

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the presidential hangar, with the presidential plane in the background, at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s government will create a state-run medicine distribution agency and will sign an agreement with the United Nations to purchase cheaper drugs and vaccines on the international market, the country’s president said on Thursday.

“This means breaking up the monopoly of companies that had control in Mexico. They sold medications that were expensive, of poor quality and there were often shortages,” said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a regular news conference.

Lopez Obrador said the distribution agency will make sure residents even in the far-flung corners of Mexico have access to medications and vaccines. The current head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, David Leon, will lead the new state-run agency.

Lopez Obrador’s government has been criticized for a shortage of medicines following a procurement shake-up, which centralized drug purchases to reduce corruption and overpricing.

The head of pharmaceutical business chamber Canifarma, Rafael Gual, has estimated that the agreement with the U.N. puts 100,000 direct jobs and half a million indirect jobs at risk.

He added that drug prices have already fallen nearly 19% between 2013 and 2019 due to consolidated purchases.

Opposition congresswoman Martha Gonzalez said the measures will not fix the medicine shortage, which she said was the result of “government inefficiency.”

Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Gregorio

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