It’s no secret that drug and pharmaceutical prices in the United States can be outrageously expensive at times. Recent media reports have mentioned how many people are seeking to purchase drugs in other countries or online. And if you live near the border with Mexico there is an easy, viable option.
Many common drugs available in the United States can also be purchased in Mexico, often at a significant reduction in cost. But before you take your prescription across the border or plan on doing a major shop at a local Mexican drugstore, you may want to learn more about what drugs are available, and which ones will be allowed back across the border.
Purchasing Pharmaceuticals in Mexico
People traveling across the Mexican border states to purchase cheaper pharmaceuticals is not uncommon. In addition to being less expensive, many drugs that require a prescription in the United States are sold over the counter in Mexico.
But it should first be noted that federal law prohibits the importation of any drugs that have not been FDA approved, and this includes foreign-made versions of popular U.S. pharmaceuticals. Additionally, some drugs that are considered controlled substances by the DEA cannot be brought back to the US.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection who enforces the laws for 40 government agencies, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Narcotics and certain other drugs with a high potential for abuse – Rohypnol, GHB and Fen-Phen, to name a few – may not be brought into the United States, and there are severe penalties for trying to do so. If you need medicines that are addictive or narcotics you should:
- Declare all drugs to the appropriate CBP official;
- Carry in their original containers;
- Carry only the quantity that one would normally carry for personal use only; and
- Carry a prescription or written statement from a physician indicating the substances are being used under a doctor’s supervision & needed for your physical well-being while traveling.
If a U.S. resident wants to bring in a controlled substance (other than narcotics such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or LSD) but does not have a prescription for the substance issued by a U.S.-licensed practitioner (e.g., physician, dentist, etc.) who is registered with, and authorized by, the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe the medication, the individual may not import more than 50 dosage units of the medication into the United States. If the U.S. resident has a prescription for the controlled substance issued by a DEA registrant, more than 50 dosage units may be imported by that person, provided all other legal requirements are met.”
Popular Drugs That Can Be Purchased in Mexico and Brought Back to the United States
There are a wide range of medicines that can be purchased in Mexico without problems. Some of the more common prescription drugs that you can buy without worrying about breaking U.S. Federal law include:
- Various antibiotics
- Birth control
Things to Watch Out for When Purchasing Prescription Drugs in Mexico
Counterfeit drugs may be masquerading as popular brands. Check packaging very carefully.
While you can get a prescription for medication from a Mexican doctor, the pharmacists at Mexican pharmacies may not have as much medical training as U.S. pharmacists. Additionally, if you have side effects or a bad reaction to any drugs purchased in Mexico, you may not have any legal recourse.
Drugs that appear familiar may actually have different active ingredients, so it is important to read the ingredients, dosage instructions and other pertinent information carefully. It can be helpful to bring a photo of the U.S. packaging and information with you so you can compare.
Read more from FDA Importation of Controlled Substances page.
Bringing Prescription Drugs Back Over the Mexican Border
All pharmaceuticals that you have purchased in Mexico must be declared at the border. Lying, or being caught with a large amount of drugs beyond a reasonable amount (more than 50 combined total doses) can result in confiscation of the drugs, as well as fines and/or arrest by U.S. Customs agents. Some drugs that require a prescription in the United States can be purchased without one in Mexico, but prescription drugs must be kept in their original packaging and contain proper identifying information of the drug and the prescribing pharmacist, if there is one.
In the end it’s up to the border patrol agent to interpret the law, but if you stay within the limits here, chances are, you will get through the border.
U.S. laws are constantly changing, and the content in this article may change without notice. Mexpro has no association with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or Food and Drug Administration. If you still have questions about what could be carried across the border you can contact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and/or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Other Medical Discounts
Did you know that medical tourism is becoming popular in Mexico among U.S. and Canadian citizens? Mexico has put a lot of money into improving medical facilities and training doctors at top schools in the U.S. and other countries. If you need a medical procedure that is not affordable, or your deductible exceeds the funds in your pocketbook, look no further than Mexico. Go to medicaltourismjuarez.com for information on procedures in Juarez, Mexico.
The latest addition to our Mexico insurance products is travel medical evacuation insurance, providing air evacuation services to your home hospital in the event of an emergency in Mexico.
Mexpro would like to thank Jason, who advised us on errors within this article and provided the information to update it.