To mark the 65th anniversary of The Mexican Association of Pharmaceutical Research Industries (AMIIF), today began Health Innovation Week, organized by the association. AMIIF today forms a collective of 42 innovative pharmaceutical companies with operations in Mexico, and its central aim is the promotion of R&D and innovation in the country. Luis Calderón, President of AMIIF, and Cristóbal Thompson, Executive Director, marked the start of Health Innovation Week with a special opening event health at the Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City. In the opening address, Cristóbal Thompson stressed that Mexican people themselves are at the core of AMIIF’s mission since every single person is a patient, and health must be considered the motor of productivity.
Thompson pointed out the double transition that Mexico is facing in terms of its demographics and epidemiologic profile. Firstly, while in 2000 6.8% of the population was over 60 years of age, this figure is expected to be 28% by 2050. Secondly, the epidemiologic profile has shifted from acute infectious diseases to chronic and degenerative ones, representing the main cause of death and the largest expenditure component of the healthcare budget in Mexico. This requires the development of new medicines that are safer and more effective, and to further improve access to them.
Luis Calderón reiterated the much cited fact that Mexico’s total investment in healthcare represents 6.2% of GDP, lower than the OECD average of 9.3%. Calderón stressed the essential role of the private sector in Mexico, explaining that the 42 members of AMIIF generate 80,000 highly remunerated positions, creating significant value in the Mexican economy. In addition, these companies provide training and education programs on specific diseases for 25,000 physicians and life sciences professionals. Regulatory improvement in Mexico is considered one the main drivers for attracting investment in healthcare, with clinical research being one of the most relevant areas. Currently, US$160 million is invested in clinical research in Mexico, a figure that is expected to grow three times in the next five years. This includes bringing phase I and II clinical trials and reinforcing phase III studies.
Following the introduction by AMIIF’s leaders, Dr. Miguel Betancourt, Global Solutions Director for the Carlos Slim Foundation delivered an interesting speech on healthcare innovation and the broad use of technology to advance the sector. Betancourt explained that innovative technologies and services must be sustainable and long lasting. In Mexico, the first level medical attention hospitals and clinics are more conservative and are hesitant to incorporate new innovation freely, while the second and third levels are more open to change. According to Betancourt a new paradigm is needed to transform this and to create an effective collaboration network among the three levels of attention. To this end one of the main programs of the Carlos Slim Foundation is Redes AMANECE, an initiative that aims to utilize technology to integrate centers and hospitals for mother’s health in order to improve attention for pregnant women and reduce maternal and infant mortality. This program is supported through the cooperation of state governments, public institutes of health, and the private health sector.
The Carlos Slim Foundation also has developed the Electronic Vaccination Book (CEV) in order to digitalize the vaccination schedule in Mexico. The universal vaccination system in Mexico is limited due to lack of an effective follow-up process. The CEV aims to improve this and has enrolled 3,657 children so far, with 30 million children expected to enroll by 2018. Dr. Betancourt also presented the program PIEENSO, an online platform to educate and reeducate medical professionals.
Finally he explained that digital technology represents a very valuable tool for medicine and epidemiology. To elucidate this Betancourt explained that in recent years internet search statistics have matched epidemic curves for influenza and other diseases, which could well be translated into algorithms to provide insight on the incidence and prevalence of particular diseases.
Innovation is undoubtedly the future when it comes to advancing healthcare quality and efficiency. This can only be achieved with the collaboration of the different actors, such as government, academia, private companies, foundations, and associations. The Health Innovation Week will comprise several conferences, round-tables, and debates in which relevant figures from the government, academia, and the private sector will discuss the issues impacting this area.