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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board is asked to back feasibility study for chemotherapy drugs reserve

Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera

By The Star Staff

New Progressive Party Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera asked the Financial Oversight and Management Board for an economic study, based on excess collections and in particular the historic increase in sales and use tax collections, with the purpose of creating a strategic reserve of chemotherapy drugs to supply the needs of patients diagnosed with cancer on the island.

“Since 2017, our administration has worked to get us out of bankruptcy by establishing a healthy fiscal public policy that has managed to increase the funds that the treasury receives through [tax collections],” the at-large senator said. “These actions led in 2022 to the highest collection figure in history being registered, over $12.955 billion, 10.3% more than in 2021. Some of that excess can be used to create the Strategic Reserve of Chemotherapy Drugs so that this type of vital life-saving medicine is no longer scarce.”

“IVU uptake is at 70%, again, the highest figure in history,” Riquelme continued. “This allows resources to be used to address the lack of chemotherapy drugs, which, I emphasize, is caused by multiple factors, including dislocations in production lines worldwide caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, as well as inflation, which has its causes in the pandemic and geopolitical changes since 2022. We recognize the effort of the secretary of Health in acquiring branded drugs to address the shortage, but if we act now using a portion of the excess [taxes] collected, we can create this reserve so that we never have to go through what we are going through today.”

In Puerto Rico, about 13,300 new cases of cancer are registered each year.

Riquelme said she was sending a letter to Robert Mujica, the executive director of the oversight board, requesting a feasibility study, as a matter of urgency, with the purpose of establishing the basis for the large-scale purchase of cancer drugs.

The senator is also considering introducing legislation on the matter as soon as this week.

According to data provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in April there was a shortage in the United States, including Puerto Rico, of several anticancer drugs including Pluvicto, which is used for advanced prostate cancer, and methotrexate, cisplatin and fluorouracil, common chemotherapy drugs used to treat a wide variety of cancers.

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