Black market of medicines, the new organized crime in Mexico

The organized crime in Mexico illegally sells antibiotics such as Clamoxin, Achromycin, Amoxicillin and Pentrexyl on the black market of medicines, none of which exceeds 40 pesos.

Organized crime in Mexico takes on illegal medicines
Organized crime in Mexico takes on illegal medicines

Do you have glibenclamide ?, someone asks a woman who sells medicines in Tepito. "Oh, no! I have bezafibrate, it's also for diabetics. The acid that is for heart attacks, I have it at 10 pesos a box, with 30 tablets," she replies.

This happens no more than two meters from the Metro Tepito station, on Granaditas Street, which is occupied by stores with boxes full of over-the-counter medications, which represent 9% (16,650 million) of pesos) of the 185 billion pesos, the market for medicines and drugs in Mexico valued in one year, according to data from the National Union of Pharmacy Entrepreneurs (Unefarm).

In turn, figures from the National Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Canifarma) indicate that around 8 million people consume these drugs, which are stolen and are sometimes outdated, meaning they pose a risk to their health. The greatest incidence of this situation is in Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla, Nuevo León and Mexico City. The chamber estimates that the total value of the black market of drugs in Mexico can range from 650 million to 1 billion 500 million dollars a year, that is, between 13 billion and 30 billion pesos annually.

Lizette Clavel Sánchez, congresswoman of the Mexico City Congress for the PT and organizer of the Diagnosing health forums, warns that when visiting the country it was detected that the illegal sale of medicines reduces the economy and the health of the Mexicans, so they submitted a couple of proposals to the President to eradicate this problem.

"An undeniable element of corruption that must be combated frontally is the black market of medicines [in the country]," she said. Upon thanking without buying anything, the merchant from Tepito comments: 

"Go straight, in the corner you go to the left and in a big place, with white canvas, there my brother-in-law sells, sure he has the one you is looking for".

"I'm looking for the little blue pill," whispers a man who is accompanied by two young men. While carrying her baby, one of the girls who attend the stand stretches out a hand and reaches for a box that says sildenafil and gives it to him: "It comes out at 120 [pesos], but it brings 10 tablets. You take a pill an hour before having sex and that's it. "

In commercial pharmacies, a box with 12 pills of Viagra costs between one thousand 61 and one thousand 442 pesos. When the merchant is asked about glibenclamide, a drug prescribed to patients with diabetes and that is among the most stolen, her companion mentions: "Here we do not have it, but I get it, it comes out at 15 pesos the little boat, with 30 pills. " On his return, he offers the requested medicine and a box of bezafibrate for the same price: "Take both, they are cheap. Check the expiration, they're good. " Both expire in January 2021.

Although the bottle of glibenclamide and the bezafibrate box have the message "property of the health sector, prohibited its sale" and "for the exclusive use of the health sector", in addition to the numbers 1042 and 010000065500, which are the keys with those that are identified in the basic chart of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) and the Ministry of Health (Ssa), the young people sell them with complete naturalness.

As a result of the forums held in October 2018, the President proposed that the consolidated purchases of medicines be mandatory, that there be an exclusive package for the health sector and that a two-dimensional code is used to keep the drugs under surveillance in order to fight the black market. "The President's decision to generate a consolidated single national purchase should be strengthened to guarantee the origin and quality of drugs and other supplies.

"In the past administration, it was observed that since the consolidated purchase was not mandatory for all the states, some made acquisitions without ascertaining the minimum regulatory requirements, so products without documentation were sold," explains Clavel Sánchez.

The organizer of the forums said that this situation encouraged illegal trafficking and the black market of medicines, which is why the federal government is recommended "to force the health sector to align its requirements with the consolidated purchase, coordinated through the Ministry of Finance. and Public Credit, in order to have a single instance of control in procurement and supply to mitigate the risks in purchasing operations. "

The second proposal to eradicate this practice is to return the requirement to laboratories manufacturers of medicines and supplies for health, which requests an exclusive package for the health sector: "As defined in the instructions for the standardization of medicines of the health sector, in which elements were established, such as colors associated with the therapeutic groups to which the drugs belong, logos of identification of the sector and warning legends ".

Finally, it is advisable to use new technologies to identify products, from their manufacture to their delivery to the end user, through a two-dimensional code or QR code. "These measures will support the use within the field of public health, the exclusive use of medicines that meet quality standards, good manufacturing practices, supplies by suppliers that have the appropriate infrastructure, as well as the resources that they demand the highest regulatory standards, so that the provenance of the tendered drugs is ensured and they are guaranteed to arrive in a timely manner ".

"I'm looking for Kaletra, it's for HIV", a lady is asked, she is in a position formed by two large tables, full of medicines. "Gordo, if you have HIV," she yells at her husband, who puts the job in order. "Right now nothing for HIV, those are more for hire, but I can get them," the man replies.

A young woman approaches and asks for Dolo-Neurobion, on a tablet. "Yes, I have it at 120 [pesos], we also have ampoules for injection," they say. The girl checks the box and pays with a 200 peso bill.

"Take the two for that price," they offer. Juvenal Becerra, president of the National Union of Pharmacy Companies (Unefarm), mentions that the most stolen products are to treat erectile dysfunction, diabetes, controlled medicine for HIV and cancer. In the tour conducted by El Gran Diario de Mexico, in the tianguis de Tepito, it is noted that medicines are marketed to treat diabetes, such as Bicartial, glibenclamide, metformin, bezafibrate, Exforge and acetylsalicylic acid, all at prices ranging from 15 up to 80 pesos.

For erectile dysfunction, commercial boxes of Sildenafil are sold at 100 pesos. Four tablets of Viagra, without a box, are worth 80 pesos, while in pharmacies it is 740 pesos. Kaletra and Truvada are used by patients with HIV; In the first, merchants claim that it can be ordered. A box of Truvada, with 30 tablets, the offer in 850 pesos, which has a commercial value of 9 thousand 500 pesos. Medications that control weight, such as Sibutramine, sell them in 100 pesos when in commercial chains it goes from 368 to 600 pesos.

The best-selling antibiotics are Clamoxin, Achromycin, Amoxicillin and Pentrexyl, none of which exceeds 40 pesos. Juvenal Becerra regrets that the theft and illegal sale of medicines has increased in recent months. Until March 1, 2019 losses of 35 million pesos were reported: "We have detected that medicines are sold in tianguis of Mexico City, such as Tepito, San Felipe de Jesus, Santa Cruz Meyehualco and in El Salado, in addition, internet sale has grown ".

He asks Mexicans not to buy drugs in tianguis to avoid any risk to their health and so that organized crime in Mexico does not continue to make profits: "I hope people do not buy, because sometimes they are outdated (...) We invite you not to take risks, we know that prices are very cheap, that's the hook. "

As for theft, the company ALTO Mexico details that the most stolen drugs from pharmacies are antifungals, vitamins, pregnancy tests, analgesics, antacids, flu, anti-inflammatory, condoms, cough syrup and expectorant.

"There is no time of the year in which this is more visible, but it has been detected that in October it goes up to 650% that of antifungals and 300% that of antacids. In November there is more of anti-flu, "says Karina Soriano, legal director of the company.

Last year Cofepris carried out operations in Veracruz, Baja California, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Tlaxcala, Jalisco, Puebla, Aguascalientes and Mexico City, in which they recovered 23 tons of medicines.

The original text of this article was published by BajoPalabra at the following address: 

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