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 4

How many Mexican meds will U.S. Customs let me bring into the United States?

The laws have been changing, so our best answer to this one is, “we don’t know for sure”.

The policy at all U.S. Ports Of Entry used to be set by the chief of each port, known as the Port Director. In turn, the Port Director left the issue up to each individual Customs inspector. With over one hundred inspectors at a typical large border crossing or airport Port Of Entry, it was impossible to predict how many meds any one inspector might allow or prohibit.

Recently, however, U.S. Customs began to limit the quantity of controlled medicines allowed into the country to fifty doses. We don't know any further details about this rule but we urge you to check with U.S. Customs before attempting to import more than fifty doses.

We mentioned this earlier, but it is so important that we’ll repeat ourselves: You must have a valid U.S. or Canadian prescription to bring any controlled medications back into the U.S., even if you bought them with a valid Mexican prescription.

A U.S. Customs inspector will ask you for a valid U.S. or Canadian prescription when you declare more than fifty doses of a controlled medicine. This prescription will be in addition to the Mexican prescription you used to purchase the meds in Mexico, which you absolutely must have.

Uncontrolled medicines are allowed entry even in large quantities, but only if the Customs inspector agrees that there’s a legitimate need for you to have one or two thousand ibuprofen tablets, a wheelbarrow full of Tums, etc. , (in fact, they usually don't quibble).

Before you return to the U.S., it can be helpful to imagine yourself in the shoes of a U.S. Custom's agent: "Is this person’s medicine actually for their personal consumption? Does this shopping bag full of pills look like a little too much for one person to use in a reasonable period of time? Are there several variations of the same drug in here or enough narcotic meds to suspect abuse?"

Trade places for a moment with these experienced officers. What would convince you that these medicines are actually for a legitimate purpose? After I first tried this "role exchanging", I became much more confident when crossing the border.

As a rule of thumb, it’s also a very good idea to contact U.S. Customs in advance or stop by the Port of Entry before you cross into Mexico. That way you’ll get the latest information, straight from “the horse’s mouth”.

If you know the rules and follow them thoughtfully, bringing your medications back into the U.S. shouldn’t be a problem. It could happen, however, that a particular Customs agent comes to work in a bad mood, or for some unknown reason decides to hassle you. If this happens, remember that The American Association Of Retired Persons (AARP) is VERY powerful and influential in Washington D.C. Woe to the Customs officer or supervisor who arbitrarily decides to give someone "a hard time" when they are attempting to bring home legitimate prescription meds. If at sometime in the future I should encounter resistance to my constitutional right to buy medicines in Mexico, I won’t hesitate to mention my membership and AARP’s influence.

According to federal U.S. statutes, it is forbidden to purchase, mail, transport, possess, ingest, transfer, or ship medicines for anyone other than yourself. Only the person who actually uses the medicine can legally handle it. The only way around this rigid law is to obtain a federal DEA number. Don’t even bother to ask... it would probably be easier to get a license to build an atomic bomb.

Last but not least: if you don’t declare your medications or foolishly attempt to conceal them, U.S. Customs considers you to be a smuggler. The penalties can be harsh, even for relatively minor infractions.

It is worth repeating: any medicine brought into the United States must be personal, for your own use. No matter how sincere your reasons might be, you cannot mail, give away or sell the medicines to another person.

OK... but didn’t the U.S. just pass a law that does allow me to buy drugs from Mexico by mail? Or am I having another “senior moment”?

You’re almost correct: a proposed U.S. law would allow the purchase of Mexican prescription medicines by internet and telephone. But! And this an important “but”... the law has been proposed, but not yet passed.

Here’s David’s latest update:

The winds of change are blowing concerning the legality of ordering Mexican prescription medicines by email, fax and telephone. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will allow us ordinary citizens to buy medicines “long distance” from outside the USA. Here is what we know and do not know about this pending legislation:

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives. Now it must go to the Senate, where it will be revised, and voted on. The measure then goes to the President, whereupon it will hopefully be signed into law.

This change is not a “done deal”, however, and the fate of the bill is unknown.

Also, it is unclear whether or not a valid prescription will be needed to purchase medications from outside the U.S. via telephone and email.

As it is now written, the bill specifically bars controlled drugs such as Valium, Vicodin, barbiturates, and other psychotropics. In other words, even though the bill may become law, certain drugs will not be allowed entry by common carrier or the mail. In order to obtain these controlled medicines you will still have to go to Mexico in person and carry them back through U.S. Customs yourself.

To make the point even more clearly, if your medicine is currently a controlled drug in the USA, it will be excluded from the list of allowable medicines. Again, consult with a U.S. pharmacist or your doctor to determine whether or not your current medicines are "controlled medicines".

Will I have to pay U.S. taxes or import duties on my meds?

No, nada... nothing. You do not have to pay tax or duty on any personal medicines purchased in Mexico.

What about natural, herbal, homeopathic and alternative medicines? Can I bring flor de tila and other widely used Mexican folk remedies across the border?

Mexico abounds in talented herbologists, naturopaths and homeopathic doctors. Their armament is a forest of natural medicines that haven't been "discovered" by the drug manufacturers yet. In my quest to control my diabetes, I discovered a combination of herbs (and one mineral) that seems to be more effective at controlling my blood sugar level than a maximum dose of a potent and dangerous pharmaceutical (diabetic) drug!

To ignore the possible benefit of medicinal herbs and alternative medicine is sheer folly. At the very least alternative therapies can effectively augment any medicinal regimen you are on.

If you purchase bulk herbal or homeopathic medicines in Mexico, ask the cashier for a factura or nota (receipt). Be sure that the name of the herb is clearly written on the receipt.

Continue with: Five Very Important Points about buying Mexican medications!

Frequently Asked Question about Buying Medicines In Mexico

Staying Healthy in Mexico Homepage
Staying Healthy from the The People's Guide to Mexico

Prescriptions Medicines Homepage
Buying Prescriptios Medicines, Part 1
Buying Prescription Medicines Part 2
Save Your Receipts
Prescription Medicines Update: March 2002

Calling a Pharmacy in Mexico for Prices
Farmacias International Website

Protection from Bugs in Mexico

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