Public health policies and regulations vary widely throughout the region. Various Latin American countries fail to agree on healthcare concepts, ranging from the simple definition of “bio-similar” drugs to complex regulations on drug storage requirements. These differences can turn a life-saving treatment into a worthless investment.
According to Dr. Eduardo Frydman, a pharmacist and consultant to the Argentine government, the Argentine government provides the 21 required vaccines, under the Vaccination National Plan, to all of its citizens. He points out that some, such as the flu vaccine, are very sensitive to temperature swings that can be found throughout the region.
“For instance, in Ushuaia at the very tip of Argentina, their median temperature can be 10-degrees colder than here in Buenos Aires,” Frydman said. “Flu vaccines are very sensitive to temperature changes. So, if they (medical staff) forget one vaccine for just one minute, they have destroyed it.”
Sergio Valladares, the head of LATAM Supply Chain Logistics for Teva Pharmaceuticals, said, “You don’t have a unified region here. You can’t compare it to Europe or the U.S. where they have (regional) standards and we just compete on cost, service, and quality. LATAM has a wide range of political and environmental differences.”
Economic and political stability play important roles in how healthcare is delivered within countries. Even when countries offer top-notch healthcare systems, not all residents have equal access to quality hospitals, medical personnel, technology, or even simple Internet access.
“Flu vaccines are very sensitive to temperature changes. So, if they forget one vaccine for just one minute, they have destroyed it.”
Dr. Eduardo Frydman
The lack of cooperation among these independent nations leads to inconsistency and uncertainty in the quality and availability of all aspects of healthcare. Their very sovereignty may stop Latin America countries from ever being fully integrated, yet each nation is facing many of the same issues that could benefit from cross-border cooperation.
The beautiful, wondrous geography that defines Latin America can actually hinder a patient’s access to healthcare. “This is a high-risk region, so we have the added concern of security. We must hire escorts for many of our shipments,” Valladares said, adding the terrain also causes unique challenges. Mexico sports the highest volcano in North America, the Pico de Orizaba (Volcano Citlaltépetl), and Atacama, Chile, is home to the driest desert. The vast majority of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil. “For example, you cannot cross from Columbia to Venezuela by truck, you have to do all shipments by sea because of the jungle.”