The People's Guide To Mexico

Staying Healthy in Mexico
Buying prescription Drugs in Mexico

Buying Prescription Drugs In Mexico
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Published August, 2001 copyright 2001 by David Eidell and The People’s Guide To Mexico

• Read this one first; it is very important! Jump
• The People’s Guide has the last word on drugs in Mexico, right? Jump
• Farmacias Internacional: A pharmacy in Tijuana Jump
• Can I save money by buying drugs in Mexico? Jump
• Can I buy controlled drugs over-the-counter in Mexico? Jump
• Do Mexican cops arrest tourists with medicines? Jump
• How do I know if a medicine is available in Mexico? Jump
• How do I know if my medication is “controlled” or not? Jump
• Is my U.S. or Canadian prescription valid in Mexico? Jump
• Can I buy Mexican drugs over the Internet or by mail? Jump
• Can I get away with this brilliant idea from my brother-in-law? Jump
• What if I need a controled medicine? Jump
• Sample medication letter from a U.S. or Canadian physician. Jump
• Who’s telling the truth here? What’s the real scoop? Jump
• How many Mexican meds can I bring into the United States? Jump
• Doesn’t a new law allow me to buy drugs from Mexico by mail? Jump
• What are the taxes or import duties on Mexican medications? Jump
• What about herbal, homeopathic and alternative medicines? Jump
• Five Very Important Points about buying Mexican medications! Jump
• website review: a wealth of info on prescription drugs. Jump
• Verification of Facts and Sources of Information Jump


"In treating the patient, first establish which is least likely to kill him, the condition itself or the cure." David "El Codo" Eidell

Why did we write this FAQ and related articles on buying prescription medications in Mexico? A important note from David Eidell and The People’s Guide To Mexico:

If you follow the news at all, you know that Mexico is changing and evolving at a rapid pace. A once wide-open attitude concerning sales of controlled medicines has now become far more disciplined and structured. As a result, much of the so-called "information" being passed around by word of mouth and via the internet about buying meds in Mexico is really just rumor and wishful thinking. In order to provide travelers with accurate and timely information, and also to help them avoid getting into serious trouble, we called upon a much more qualified expert, our friend David Eidell. David’s personal experience and extensive research on health care and medical issues in Mexico makes him uniquely qualified to write about buying medications. David’s knowledge is also first-hand. In fact, he lives so close to Mexico that he crosses the border and does his laundry there.

As an example of David’s hard-earned knowledge, here’s an excerpt from a letter he wrote us a few years ago about a unique shopping trip into a Mexican border town....

I was visiting a friend who was staying in a motorhome in a border town RV park when a neighbor overheard our conversation about buying medicines in Mexico. She was stunned to hear that Mexican meds were cheaper (much cheaper!) than those she purchased through her health care provider. In fact, the next day half a dozen people showed up asking me more questions and expressing astonishment that U.S. citizens could legally import hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of medicines if it was for their personal consumption.

The die was cast. I soon found myself driving six nervous retirees across the border to shop for drugs in Mexico. Like a herd of eager school kids they shopped from farmacia to farmacia, excitedly filling white plastic bags with boxes, bottles and strips of medicines.

When we lined up at the border that afternoon to re-enter the U.S.A., however, the car suddenly fell very silent. Having trusted my word alone, the group now carried at least a dozen bags of medicines on their laps. We pulled up to the U.S. Customs booth.....

"How-r-y'all doin' today? Y'all got anything to deeclare?" A jumble of voices sprang forth - "I've got this and I've got that, and I've got some of these, and some boxes of those and.... these big boxes with little bitty bottles inside, and these pretty blue bottles, and those brown ones, and..... some kits complete with syringes and all".

"Oh, yeah, and I bought a year's supply of valium!" (At that one, I have to admit that even my stomach started to churn.)

Customs officer: "Uh, m'am, is that Valium for your own personal use?"

"Yessir! My doctor put me on Valium five years ago to keep me from killing my husband " (nervous twitter of laughter).

Customs officer: "All those bags in there, do they contain prescription medicines that you just bought in Mexico?"

"Yes sir! Uh huh! Thats's right!"

Customs officer: "Ok. You folks go on and have a nice day now, you heah."

As we headed back to the RV park, I casually asked my passengers how much they’d actually spent in Mexico on meds.
"Five hundred dollars" , “Two hundred plus”, “Eight hundred and fifty, “Eight hundred”, and “Six hundred"! This last person had somehow misplaced his receipts but later found that his credit card receipts for medicines purchased that day totalled more than a thousand dollars!

As a postscript, about ten years ago I lost any pretense of shyness about buying my medicines in Mexico when a pharmaceutical salesmen drove up to my doctor's office in an eighty thousand dollar imported sports sedan. The salesman then offered me "free samples" of a new medicine. Each large box contained just one tiny sample pill of a medication that would set me back five dollars. The same brand, and in the same doseage, would later set me back just sixty cents in Mexico.

The response from People's Guide readers to David’s articles has been very strong, and for the most part, quite gratifying. For example, many people have told us that they have purchased medicines while traveling in Mexico, while others say they are planning to do so on a future trip.

In and amongst the positive messages from our readers, however, a troubling thread has also emerged. Some people ask us, "Just how much can I bring back?”. How about a six month supply? A year's? Others pose plaintive, near-desperate questions about multiple purchases of opiates and narcotic pain-relievers, tranquilizers, hypnotics, and other controlled drugs. Demerol, codeine, Valium, Rohypnol, Quaaludes... the list is potent and the implications are disturbing.

As we all know, drug use -- and abuse -- is a huge problem in the "real world". We won't bother to speculate why someone might want to purchase enough painkillers to equip a battlefield first-aid station, or sedate a dozen wild bulls. As a wise pharmacist once quipped to David, “Ingesting drugs involves a choice: you have to decide which would be less likely to kill you, the disease or the cure”.

One thing does stand out in many of these inquiries, however: the obvious wish to circumvent their personal physician. Price really can't be the main issue: for most people, the cost of a round trip excursion to the Mexican border just to buy medications would almost certainly offset any savings.

Obviously there can be perfectly legitimate reasons for a licensed physician to prescribe maintenance dosages of addictive medicines. Some meds are controlled, however, because it is more than just "easy" to abuse them. Habituation or addiction -- whatever you call it -- no one can outwit chemical dependency. When it comes down to chemistry, the chemical will always dominate. Addiction isn't really a gamble with some drugs, it's a zero payout slot machine. You always lose and the house always wins.

Even if we put aside questions of motive and need for a moment, buying a large quantity of controlled medicines in Mexico is not a simple matter for an honest person. The medical community is very cautious in dealing with Sector Salud, Mexico's version of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Most Mexican doctors firmly refuse to write prescriptions for more than thirty or forty doses. Once a doctor gets to know you (perhaps over the course of a year or two of treatment), he may authorize seventy or eighty controlled tablets or capsules.

Licensed "first-class" farmacias are also extremely reluctant to sell medications in large amounts, no matter how authentic a prescription may be.

Continue with: The People’s Guide has the last word on drugs in Mexico, right?

©1972-2003 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens