The People's Guide To Mexico

Staying Healthy in Mexico
Buying prescription Drugs in Mexico

Buying Prescription Drugs In Mexico
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Part 2

The People's Guide To Mexico is kind of a clearing house for information about the availability and prices of prescription medicines in Mexico, right?

Sorry, but the answer is definitely “No” .

This “FAQ” and the article series Buying Prescription Drugs In Mexico published on The People’s Guide To Mexico website, were written in response to the numerous questions we’ve received on this important subject. Please note, however, that we cannot -- and definitely will not answer inquiries about specific drug availability, sources for medications, or current prices. We are writers, researchers and travelers, not doctors or pharmacists!

Farmacias Internacional: A pharmacy in Tijuana

We received the following email from a pharmacy in Tijuana and offer it to you in the spirit of, “for what it is worth”. We have no other knowledge of this pharmacy, however, nor any connection with them.

“I read your article on buying medications in Mexico and found it to be very accurate in its guidelines.

One thing that is a common occurance is the difficulty in getting information on medications. We are Farmacias Internacional, a 13 store chain in Tijuana and have been in business for well over 45 years. Aside from being one of the biggest, if not the biggest in terms of sales, we offer our customers prices consistent with our strong purchasing power.

If you would like to post our webpage on your page, your readers might find it useful. Our webpage is and they can email us at They will see how easy buying medications can be through us.

The website is still under construction but will feature maps to our locations and well as a database containing our products, equivalance to the U.S. medication and very importantly, prices. For now, they can get the answers emailing us.

Carlos Cortez
Farmacias Internacional
Tijuana, B.C.

Can I really save money by buying prescription drugs in Mexico and bringing them home? How do I do this without getting into trouble?

First of all, we strongly urge you to consult with your doctor before obtaining medicines in Mexico.

Second, if you haven’t yet done so, be sure to read the following articles carefully:

Purchasing Prescription Drugs In Mexico, Part One and Part Two, and Calling a Pharmacy for Price by David Eidell.

After reading these articles you may have further questions about specific drugs and medications, laws, rules, regulations, or U.S. Customs requirements. Please, don’t ask us! You’ll have to direct these questions to the agency in question. We simply don't have the time (or this kind of information) to respond to individual questions. (See Verification of Facts and Sources of Information at the end of this article.)

Mexican medicine prices are not controlled by the government but rather by the law of supply and demand. Competition is fierce, though one store or chain of stores always seems to be cheaper than the others. To get the best price you'll just have to shop around and compare. If you’re buying a large quantity, don't be shy about bartering a little.

One particular farmacia offered me a twenty percent discount -- and this was on top of a forty percent "at time of purchase" discount. My total savings amounted to several hundred dollars! Later, I asked about this discounting practice in a competing drugstore just down the street. After reviewing my lengthy receipt from the first farmacia, the owner of the second store shrugged and said "You should have showed me this first, I could have saved you even more money".

Before you jump on a plane and fly from Buffalo to Mexico, keep in mind that the experience of Mexico might be worth the cost of the trip, but spending a thousand dollars just to buy medicines really can't be justified.

Before I moved even closer to Mexico, I was fortunate to live near an airport with round trip flights to San Diego for just $79. From the airport I caught a shuttle bus to the San Diego Trolley, which took me right to the border. I then took a cross-border shuttle bus to downtown Tijuana for a dollar.

Rather than fret about the clock, I overnighted at a sixteen dollar hotel, did my shopping, and then flew back home the following day. To justify these costs I had to purchase at least $500 worth of drugs. On an average trip, I actually spent $1100 to $1300 on various medicines.

When I arrived at the U.S. Customs inspection table for pedestrians, the usual routine went like this:

"Sir, what have you got in that big sack over your shoulder?"

"These are prescription drugs for my own personal use."

"Uh, O.K. Anything else?"

Is it true that I can buy drugs like Valium and Percodan over-the-counter in Mexico?

No! Not any longer!

Back in the Sixties and Seventies, before the Mexican government started enforcing the law, it used to be possible to buy most anything you wanted “over the counter”, without a prescription. Today, however, any drug classified as a controlled medicine cannot be purchased in Mexico without a Mexican prescription. This prescription must also be written by a federally registered physician. Purchasing a controlled medicine without a valid prescription is a felony (repeat: a felony!) for both the purchaser and the seller. (See Purchasing Prescription Drugs In Mexico, Part One. )

Do Mexican cops arrest tourists with medicines?

Mexico’s laws governing medicines are similar to those in the United States. Possession of controlled medicines is legal as long as the medications are in a properly marked prescription bottle from a U.S. or Canadian doctor. You shouldn't have more doses in the bottle than are authorized by the prescription. If your meds aren’t in such a container, you must have a photocopy of a valid Mexican prescription. On the off chance that a cop checks your medicines, and your prescription agrees with the brand and quantity of the drug, the police should accept that the medicine is legal and go about their business.

When in doubt, just remind yourself that wherever you go in Mexico, the U.S., or Canada, controlled drugs need a prescription.

In Mexico, medications such as Valium, Vicodin, Placidyl, Ambien, codeine, and Ativan are not legally sold over-the-counter without a valid prescription from a Mexican physician. If you succeed in purchasing controlled medicines without benefit of a prescription, Mexican cops can bust you on a dope charge... and you can forget about bail.

Several highly publicized arrests of Americans in Mexico leave little doubt, at least in my mind, that illegal purchases of controlled medicines may be a setup. The penalty for such offenses is usually six months to a year in an uncomfortable Mexican prison. Getting out of jail with a well-placed bribe may... or may not be an option.

Do yourself a favor and never try to circumvent the law. Get a prescription!

Continue with: How do I know if the medicine I want is actually available in Mexico?

©1972-2003 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens