Interview: Rodrigo Puga

What are the key themes of the government’s national health care plan, and what does this mean for the pharmaceuticals industry?

RODRIGO PUGA: Generating savings, improving transparency and eliminating corruption are the defining goals of the national health plan. It is expected that these efforts will free up resources and enable the provision of better medications and treatments to the public. The budget will increase each year until 2025. Currently, Mexico invests less than 6% of its GDP into health care — a figure that accounts for both public and private investment combined — and public services receive roughly half of total investment. Under the new plan, an additional 1% will be invested in the public sector, which will positively impact the pharmaceuticals industry.

How will centralising health care provision at the federal level improve access to services?

PUGA: In 1997 Mexico decentralised health care services and delegated all power to the states. The federal government now wishes to radically change the provision of health care and, in effect, take back control of service delivery. The centralisation of health care corresponds with a desire to improve transparency and guarantee that resources are used efficiently and fairly. Centralising health care will combat the misuse of vital resources, particularly those funds earmarked for the People’s Health Insurance Scheme. By standardising the system throughout Mexico, the quality of health care provision will improve across the board.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has spoken several times about having a centralised health care system similar to those in Canada or in Scandinavian countries. With 32 states, a population exceeding 126m and an existing health delivery system that is highly complex, this is a complicated undertaking. However, Mexico’s large population can help boost productivity if the rule of law is enhanced within the health care sector, as a healthy population is a working population.

To what extent will shifting the emphasis from curative to preventative health care affect growth in the pharmaceuticals sector?

PUGA: The government declared prevention to be a top priority, and investment should be directed to these services accordingly. A federal policy favouring preventative health inevitably means that the entire sector will continue to grow. We need to focus on the patient’s health needs, no matter if the solution is based on curative or preventive medicine. This can only happen if industry, government, the medical community and society work together to develop and give patients access to the right medicines. When working hand in hand with the government, the industry becomes more creative in developing ways to increase access to services and products. One such example of this is innovative payment schemes that allow public institutions to pay for results instead of products.

In what ways will the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement support innovation in the pharmaceuticals industry?

PUGA: It is imperative that we understand the new USMCA trade agreement, under which clinical data will have an exclusivity of 10 years. This has nothing to do with patent expiration, which will remain the same. Patents in Mexico have a lifespan of 20 years, and they are valid from the moment a scientist discovers the molecule or chemical compound. Over 10% of patents made every year to the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property come from local companies. However, clinical data has undergone fundamental change.

In the end, the USMCA trade agreement is expected to encourage further investment into pharmaceutical and health care companies, because it is these firms that boost life expectancy and improve overall health outcomes. Over the last five decades the average life expectancy in Mexico has increased by 40 years, and 65% of this is attributed to pharmaceutical innovations.