Published March 2002
Mexico's legislature nixed president Vicente Fox's plans to tack a twenty percent tax onto prescription medicine sales. Medicines seem to be one of the few commodities in Mexico that haven't undergone a series of spiraling price increases in the last several months. If anything, competition in border cities has resulted in price slashing on some of the more expensive antibiotics and stomach remedies.
Not long ago I saw Ciprofloxacin selling for thirty one cents (US) per tablet -- a notable difference from the four dollar plus price tag per tablet in the USA. Another standout was Omerprazol (Prilosec 20 mg.) capsules for forty three cents each (versus eight dollars in the USA).
High costs of medicines made in the U.S.
Yet some tourists continue to be surprised at the seemingly high cost of newer medicines such as Celebrex and Viagra. If you look carefully at the printing on the package, you may discover that the medicines are imported from the USA.
International patents expire in less than half the time as US patents, and for the really serious shopper, this is when alternative brands start producing the medicine at a fraction of its former cost.
Buy Medicines made in Mexico
Also noteworthy are my comments that I made in an earlier People's Guide article about feeling not quite at ease when purchasing medicines that were not manufactured in Mexico. In the last several days a press release was issued by the US Food and Drug Administration that expressed concern over "counterfeit" and "substandard" medicines from India and China. Such medicines are usually packaged in a plastic bottle with a slick looking label printed in English.
Official looking labels advertising "Penicillin 500 gr USP" or similar, have nothing at all to do with the USP which is the United States Pharmacopeia, a drugs standard, government department of the FDA. I would prefer to choose a "genuine made in Mexico" medicine over those manufactured in the near or far East. Medicines manufactured in Puerto Rico are done under US license and supervision.
Here is yet another reason not to "stock up on" uncalled for antibiotics: Most bacteria are classified either "Gram A" or "Gram B". Almost all antibiotics are "Gram Specific" meaning they will work on one type of bacteria but not the other. In the event that you should ever need an antibiotic, and choose the wrong type, you are going to waste several days waiting for nothing to happen (and grow even sicker), and the "wrong" antibiotic may trigger the bacteria to become resistant to the correct antibiotic. Most antibiotics do not age well and become weak or even toxic.
Hint: When your doctor prescribes a medicine for you and you intend to purchase the medication in Mexico, ask him or her, to scribble out the generic name (even if a generic isn't yet available in the USA) onto the prescription. If you end up purchasing a medicine in Mexico with a name or formula that is unfamiliar to a US Customs Agent, the name clarification on the prescription will usually convince him that the medicine is allowable.
U.S. & Mexican Prescriptions
Keep in mind that a US prescription is invalid in Mexico and that Mexican medicines are never repackaged into bottles with a prescription label (like US and Canadian medicines). In such a case, possession of a valid prescription written by a Mexican doctor is your only proof that you purchased a controlled medicine legally.
The presence of a prescription bottle with a label in your name, is treated in Mexico just as it is in the USA and Canada -- the prescription bottle is proof that you have a prescription. This does not mean, however, that this prescription (presumably from the US or Canada) is actually valid in Mexico. It's main value in Mexico is that it might help you get a Mexican doctor to write a valid Mexican prescription.
Cross the Border Sober
And lastly, officials in any country (the USA and Canada included) can detain and arrest anyone suspected of abusing a controlled medicine regardless if they have a prescription or not. My advice is to "cool it" when under the influence of a painkiller or tranquilizer.
Disabled Parking Zones
These parking spots are becoming more common in Mexico, but local police still assume that vehicles using such zones are special ramp equipped vans that transport wheelchair bound individuals. If you decide to use one of these spots, be sure to have your disabled paperwork as well as the blue placard prominently displayed in the windshield. You might have to point out your name on the parking permit to an officious "transito" and have him compare it to your driver's license.