MINSA invests $ 763,000 in questionable “Covid drugs”
The Ministry of Health (MINSA) purchased some 16 million ivermectin and colchicine tablets from Laboratorios Ramos, owned by the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), two drugs not recommended by international organizations to treat the condition. Covid-19. The acquisitions, dated between March and September 2021, had a total cost of US $ 735,959 – equivalent to around 25.9 million cordobas, at the official exchange rate – reveals a series of recently published “Covid-19 contracts” in the Electronic Administrative Administrative. Procurement system (SISCAE).
According to the contracts, the total purchase of ivermectin was 7 million tablets, one million was purchased on March 16, and the rest on August 20. The investment was $ 81,196. The purchase of Colchicine amounted to 9 million tablets, purchased on the same date in August, for an amount of $ 654,763.
“We recommend not to use ivermectin in patients with Covid-19, except in a clinical trial. This recommendation applies to patients regardless of the severity of the disease and the duration of the symptoms, ”said the World Health Organization (WHO) in the treatment guidelines for Covid-19, updated to 31 March 2021.
MINSA has made the decision to distribute ivermectin tablets from house to house among the healthy and sick population in order to prevent the Covid-19 epidemic. The pandemic has spread exponentially in terms of both infections and deaths since the end of August. The decision was made even though its use is not approved by the WHO or the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
“Until today, there is no specific treatment or preventive remedy for this disease. The treatment is based on the management of ailments. Ivermectin and colchicine do not work. No informed doctor should provide colchicine and ivermectin, because they do not work ”, explains epidemiologist Leonel Arguello.
Likewise, in the acquisitions made by MINSA, between March and September, the purchase of Simvastatin and Vitamin D, other drugs which were used in patients with Covid-19 are detailed, but which have not been still no conclusive results on their profits. These drugs were purchased from Distribuidora Cruz Azul, which is also linked to the INSS, and from Drogueria Nunez. The total amount of this purchase was the equivalent of US $ 27,092.
An infectious disease doctor, who requested anonymity, explained that statins, the group to which simvastatin belongs, improved the prognosis for coronavirus patients who took them ahead of time due to cholesterol issues. However, “it has not shown any benefit” with other covid patients, so “more research and studies are needed”.
In total, between March and September, 27 “Covid contracts” were published, at two different times: four between April and May, and the 23 others in September. In the first, a minor purchase of ivermectin, simvastatin and vitamin D had already been revealed.
23 new “Covid contracts”
According to the update of the “Covid contracts”, which were published by the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (MHCP), between March and September, MINSA awarded 23 purchases for an amount of US $ 15,668,697.00 .
The government released these contracts as part of a transparency deal that Daniel Ortega’s government established with multilateral organizations to access loans and funds to respond to the pandemic.
In total, Laboratorios Ramos won three of the 23 contracts awarded for a total amount of $ 1,062,328.00, with which it purchased other drugs to treat Covid-19, in addition to Colchicine and Ivermectin .
Fifty percent of “Covid contracts” were for the purchase of supplies and replacement reagents from the National Diagnostic and Reference Center (CNDR). According to their description, Cam International Company, which provides equipment, reagents and laboratory supplies, was the one that won the most expensive contracts. A total of three were awarded for an amount of $ 4.2 million. With these, MINSA acquired medical supplies to perform PCR tests, such as reagent kits for RNA extraction, reaction plates, filters, among others.
The Yale Healthcare Company has won two “Covid contracts” worth $ 3.6 million. Along with these drugs, MINSA bought drugs such as: clindamycin, which is used to treat lung infections; voriconazole, for fungal infections; Colistin, an antibiotic against bacteria. They also bought gloves, catheters, bandages, gauze, oximeters, surgical caps, shoe covers, syringes, among other supplies.
The distributor of medical and laboratory supplies (Dismelab SA) has been awarded two contracts worth $ 2.5 million and will be used to purchase test reagents and medical supplies. Among them: nitrile gloves, ethanol, polystyrene tubes, biosafety bags and plate fixers.
$ 1,211 for each city
MINSA also invested in the purchase of Tocilizumab, a drug that has been shown to “reduce mortality and the need for invasive ventilation, without significantly increasing serious adverse effects in patients with severe disease or illness. criticism of Covid-19, according to the WHO. treatment guide.
This drug, which is produced exclusively by the pharmaceutical company Roche, is expensive. For each vial of Tocilizumab (400 mg / 20 ml), MINSA paid approximately $ 1,211. it acquired a total of 1,671 vils, for which Medical Nicaragua SA won the single contract for $ 2,024,524.
Likewise, the Ministry of Health purchased 2,100 vials of Tocilizumab (162 mg / 0.9 ml) for a total amount of US $ 344,231. These were purchased in part from Distribuidora Cruz Azul and DICEGSA.
Generic Pharma GP SA has won two contracts totaling $ 1.1 million, with which it has acquired injections of meropenem, voriconazole which is used in Covid patients who develop pulmonary aspergillosis, in addition hydrocortisone, diazepam, dopamine, among other drugs.
Masks for MINED
Among the “Covid contracts” there were ten that consisted of minor purchases, ranging from $ 5,523, which the Ministry of Education (MINED) allocated for the masks, to $ 276,000 which they used for buy insulin, a diabetes medicine.
These minor contracts were won by Imfarsa, Neo Ethicals, Distribuidora Cruz Azul, Drogueria Nunez, NPro Medical Corporation and DICEGSA. Several of these companies had already benefited from “Covid contracts”, as documented in various confidential reports.
The first time that the government of Daniel Ortega published information relating to the State’s purchases in response to Covid-19 was in November 2020. On this occasion, it was the publication of 19 contracts of state purchase, which amounted to ten million dollars.
Subsequently, he added five “Covid contracts” awarded to MINED for an amount of US $ 471,014 which were used to purchase mops, brooms and soap for washing dishes. In April 2021, they published six more contracts that were awarded for the purchase of personal protections, such as masks, hydroalcoholic gel and thermometers for the border posts of Penas Blancas, San Pancho and Guasaule, for an amount of 13 US $ 555.
Despite the commitment to transparency acquired, the government of Ortega does not publish the full list of contracts for Covid-19, as they have not been included in the “Covid-19 contracts” section of the Electronic System of Administrative Procurement ( SISCAE), 53 of closed calls for tenders, which exclude contracts that have benefited companies allied to the regime. As demonstrated by the survey “The lucrative recipe for Covid in Nicaragua”, prepared by the regional journalistic platform Connectas.
Despite the fact that the Ministry of Health has made several purchases to deal with the pandemic, between March and September 2021, the investment is very low. According to a Confidential analysis, during the first half of this year, the government received the equivalent of 118.1 million USD intended exclusively for the fight against Covid-19, but as of June 30, only 13.5 million in total were executed.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our team