Tuesday 30th August 2022.

August 30, 2022


The National Union of Pharmacy Owners (Unprofa) filed this Monday, August 29, 2022, before the Third Administrative Litigation Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, a lawsuit to declare Executive Decree No. 17 of August 10 illegal  and Resolution No. 82 of August 16, both related to a discount on medications. Through Executive Decree No. 17 of August 10, 2022, a 30% discount was set on the price of 170 medications, while resolution No. 82 of August 16, specified that international laboratories must sell to drug distribution companies at least 30% less than the sale price registered in each laboratory the 170 drugs selected by the Panamanian government as of June 30. Orlando Pérez, president of Unprofa, claimed that “arbitrarily and without consultation” they are forced to give a 30% discount on the drugs included in said list and on top of that they must continue to give the additional 20% discount to retirees. Pérez said that the distributors, despite resolution No. 82, still “have not complied or they do not make the credit notes of the products of the pharmacies.” He added that they are not even dispatched by their distributors, arguing that the laboratories “have not yet confirmed that 30%,” including the laboratories of the Central American and Caribbean Federation of Pharmaceutical Laboratories, which were present at a meeting with the vice president of the Republic, Jose Gabriel Carrizo. For this reason, the owners of pharmacies request that the effects of Decree No. 17 and Resolution No. 82 be suspended. “Right now there is a shortage of medicines at the national level where the Panamanian population is the most affected because they cannot receive their prescriptions to continue their treatments”. Pérez emphasized that they are “extremely concerned” because the aforementioned executive decree “leads us to the immediate bankruptcy of our pharmacies”, which, according to what he said, have already lowered their sales. “We are experiencing the worst economic and social crisis for pharmacy owners… private investments are being attacked,” he added. Unprofa brings together 450 pharmacies throughout the country and employs 5,000 people directly.

The director of Pharmacy and Drugs of the Ministry of Health (Minsa), Elvia Lau, affirmed this Monday that medicines containing the active ingredient ranitidine in all its pharmaceutical forms were withdrawn from the country. The decision is made in compliance with Resolution 317 of August 11, which orders the preventive and immediate suspension of the health registration of all drugs that contain the active ingredient ranitidine. “The manufacturers of the product had been told that they should show, based on evidence and quantitative analysis, whether or not the drug contained the impurity in considerable quantities and since they did not specify the amount as requested, all its derivitives were withdrawn. ”, stated Lau. In a statement from the Minsa, Lau explained that the manufacturers must carry out all the necessary analyzes and present them so that the Directorate of Pharmacy and Drugs can authorize their commercialization, meanwhile the suspension is maintained. In the same way, she affirmed that the resolution also establishes that the distribution agencies, importers and manufacturers withdraw all batches of medicines in any of their formulations. Lau recalled that since October 2019, through Resolution 876, oral ranitidine in tablets was withdrawn throughout the national territory once it manifested in its content a nitrosamine impurity called N-nitrosodimethylamine which, if taken in large quantities, can cause cancer.

Some 42.1 tons of drugs seized in Panama began to be transferred from this Monday, August 29, 2022, to the United States for proper incineration. In this mission, the United States provides a plane from its Air Force, at no cost to Panama, to move the cargo. Said illicit substance was guarded by an agent from the Directorate of Judicial Investigation and a drug prosecutor from Panama, explained the Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino. The minister reiterated that this is done with the purpose of avoiding damage to the environment caused by the traditional open burning of these substances. The official specified that traditionally in each drug burning the country spends up to $200 thousand and employs about 350 officials. In 2021, Panama seized 128.7 tons of drugs and, so far in 2022, 65 tons have been seized.

The sustainability crisis of the exclusively defined-benefit subsystem, which feeds retiree pensions, threatens to put strong additional pressure on a deteriorated position of the country’s public finances. Between 2019 and 2021, mainly due to the imposition of restrictions on the economy during the pandemic and increased spending, public debt soared from 46.3% to 63.7% of gross domestic product. In nominal terms, as of July 2022, the balance of the non-financial public sector debt was $42,939 million. This is a diminished fiscal position to deal with the eventual impact that the sustainability crisis of the pension program would cause, from where nearly $180 million is paid monthly to retirees. La Prensa revealed that the trust funds in favor of the exclusively defined benefit subsystem for Disability, Old Age and Death (IVM), which is nourished by contributions from the State and which is part of the program’s reserves, would not be enough to cover the deficit. of the defined benefit subsystem this 2022. Meanwhile, if there are no changes to the system, the reserves would run out between the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024. As it is unlikely that the Government will stop paying pensions to retirees, it would be forced to increase the contributions it makes to cover the imbalances. According to a study by the Actuarial Technical Board based on 2020 data, but delivered this month to the board of directors of the Social Security Fund (CSS), the State would have to contribute $11,787 million between 2024 and 2030 to finance annual deficits . This is a pressure for public finances that grows over time, as explained by the former Vice Minister of Economy, Domingo Latorraca , since the defined benefit subsystem has to assume pension expenses but does not incorporate new contributors. The former president of the College of Economists, Olmedo Estrada , commented that these are additional resources that should be incorporated into the budgets. For his part, the economist Ernesto Bazán said that if the country already had a debt ratio at high levels, incorporating new debt to meet pensions, because they are unavoidable commitments, “has a huge fiscal impact and is currently the main threat to the sustainability of the Panamanian economy”. The risk rating agencies have been warning in recent years about the deterioration of the CSS finances and the need for reforms that have not materialized. Bazán believes that the agencies are giving the country “a grace period” to address structural reforms but warned that at some point it will end. Similarly, the president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives, Temístocles Rosas , expressed concern that this situation ends up affecting the country’s credit risk profile. The unsustainable situation of the defined benefit subsystem has been known for years.

Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes reported this Monday, that the country recovered 343 archaeological pieces that were identified in the Netherlands. “We are replicating this same effort in other countries and the next archaeological return will come from Italy,” Mouynes said. Meanwhile, the Panamanian embassy in the Netherlands highlighted that after several years of work, the pieces were transferred to our country. Last June it was reported that Italy returned to Panama two pre-Columbian archaeological pieces that had been taken from the isthmus and later found. The works were located in Naples and Calabria, and belong to the cultural assets of Panama.

“If things continue as they are going, I think we could calmly wait for our patriotic parades.” This was announced by the Minister of Health, Luis Francisco Sucre , about the queries that have been made to him regarding the celebration of these parades next November. Sucre said that the positivity of covid-19 is at 13%, a percentage that has dropped, which “is good.” The official added that it is necessary to “maintain” that control. “I think that we can wait for our patriotic parades, we are going to wait for what happens with the carnivals, first we go step by step,” he stressed. Due to the restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 the parades were suspended at the national level and only official acts with a reduced participation of people were allowed. In 2021, presentations by different delegations were held at the Rommel Fernández stadium, as in other parts of the country, but in closed and controlled spaces. On the other hand, the Minister of Health indicated that the issue of eliminating the mask in public transport continues to be analyzed, precisely given the low positivity of covid-19 in the country. In addition, he reported that this week the measure that required the QR code or the vaccination card from travelers would be removed. “Our population is well covered, and we aspire to continue with the vaccination process,” he said.

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