How to Buy Prescription Drugs in Mexico and Bring Them into the U.S.
It's no secret that prescription drugs can be expensive in the United States. In fact, they are often among the costliest items on a person's healthcare bill. So, it's not surprising that many people seek out less expensive alternatives, including buying prescription medications in Mexico. But before you cross the border to buy your meds, there are a few things you should know.
There are a wide range of prescription drugs available at Mexican pharmacies (called "farmacias" in Español), from common antibiotics to more specialized medications. In general, you can find most of the same medications that are available in the United States, but they may be sold under different names. And while some Mexican pharmacies are well-stocked and reliable, others are not
Additionally, you should always check with your healthcare provider before taking any medication, as some may interact with other drugs you are taking or have adverse side effects.
Finding a Reputable Farmacia
How do you know if a given farmacia is reliable? Generally, you can trust the nationwide farmacias. Farmacias Guadalajara, Farmacias Benavides, and Farmacias Similares are three well-known chains. The Costcos and Walmart farmacias are also trustworthy. There are other, local, chains as well. Also, if you go to a doctor in town, he/she will be able to recommend a farmacia that they trust.
The types of farmacias to avoid are those in tourist areas, those that are kind of a hole-in-the-wall, and advertising Viagra and antibiotics in English. Generally, be very cautious of those.
It is important to know there are some drugs in México that you cannot get without a prescription from a Mexican doctor. Antibiotics, opioid pain killers such as Oxycodone and Percocet (not Tramadol), ADHD drugs, anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax and Ativan, and some sleep medications all require prescriptions from a Mexican doctor. If you need one of these types of drugs, bring your existing prescription or pill bottle to a Mexican doctor. Usually they will write you a prescription for a reasonable fee. Many farmacias, like Farmacia Similares, even have doctors on-site to assist with prescriptions.
If you come across a farmacia offering to sell you any of the above types of drugs without a prescription, you should be very suspicious. Opioid pain killers are hard to get in México and expensive when you do find them. Only certain doctors can prescribe these drugs and special farmacias dispense them (usually associated with a hospital). They are not readily available, and certainly not available over the counter (OTC).
Prescription Drugs That Are Available in a Mexico Pharmacy
Many common drugs that are available in the United States can be purchased in Mexico, usually at a significant reduction in price, and sometimes over the counter. But before you take your prescription across the border or plan on visiting a Mexico pharmacy, you may want to learn more about what drugs are available, and which ones will be allowed back across the border. Here's a list of drugs that are generally available at a Mexico pharmacy.
No prescription is needed for the following types of drugs in Mexico:
- Birth Control
- Erectile Dysfunction medications, like Viagra
- Blood Pressure medications, including Lisinopril and Atenolol
- Cholesterol-lowering medications such as Simvastatin
- Diabetes medication, including many types of insulin
- Heartburn and GERD medications such as Omeprazole
- Pain Medication, like Tramadol
- Antidepressants such as Celexa, Wellbutrin, and a variety of SSRIs
- Steroid medications such as Prednisone
- Anti-fungals like Ivermectin
- Over the counter Medications such as vitamins, supplements, and other medications available without a prescription
Usually, you can purchase these medications over the counter in Mexico.
You must have a prescription for the following types of drugs:
You must get a prescription from a Mexican doctor to purchase these drugs. It is easy to get a prescription for most of these EXCEPT the opioids. For those, only special doctors can write prescriptions and only a few farmacias can fill them, usually those associated with a hospital.
For ANY of the below drugs, if a farmacia is offering to sell them to you without a prescription, USE EXTREME CAUTION. These are the drugs which are being found to be laced with fentanyl and are not worth the risk.
- Antibiotics, like Amoxicillin and Ciprofloxacin
- Percocet, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and other opioid pain killers
- Anxiety Medication, including Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and other benzodiazepines
- Asthma inhalers, like Albuterol, Breo, ProAir®, and many others
- ADD and ADHD medications, like Ritalin, Strattera, and Vyvanse. Adderall is available at some pharmacies but is limited in supply and is expensive.
Availability of Drugs in Mexico
The availability of a drug at a pharmacy varies. Also, the price of a given drug can vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy, in the same town. So, it pays to shop around or ask the local expats where the best, trusted farmacias are located.
Quality, Safety, Legality of Prescription Drugs Bought in Mexico
Some people may be concerned about the quality of prescription drugs they can buy in Mexico. In general, it's perfectly safe and legal to purchase prescription drugs in Mexican pharmacies and bring them back into the United States for personal use.
The Mexican government has strict regulations in place to ensure that all prescription drugs sold in Mexico meet international quality standards. And, most Mexican pharmacies are licensed and insured by Mexican health authorities, so you can be confident that you're getting safe and reliable medication when you go to the pharmacies we recommend.
How to Get a Prescription from a Mexican Doctor
Some drugs in Mexican pharmacies need a prescription to purchase. The best way to get a prescription is to visit a Mexican doctor. Mexican doctors are licensed and qualified to prescribe medication, and many of them offer telemedicine services that allow you to consult with a doctor online or over the phone.
To get a prescription, you'll first need to find a doctor who offers telemedicine or walk-in services. You can do this by searching online. Or you can visit the pharmacy to see if there is one on-site or adjacent to the pharmacy.
Once you've found a doctor, you'll need to provide them with your medical history and current list of medications. The doctor will then be able to assess your condition and may prescribe medication that's available in Mexico.
Buying U.S. or Canadian Prescribed Medicine in Mexico
If you're already taking prescription medication and need a prescription to purchase it in Mexico, bring your current prescription with you when you visit the Mexican pharmacy or doctor. This will help ensure that you're receiving the same medication. The pharmacist can look up the drug to get the Mexican equivalent. If you need a prescription from a doctor, the pharmacist will advise you to do so. Many farmacias have doctors located in offices adjacent to the farmacia and some have doctors who work in the farmacia.
Buying New Medications Prescribed by a Mexican Doctor
If you're starting a new course of prescription medication while in Mexico, be sure to ask the Mexican doctor for a copy of the prescription in case you have any difficulties taking it across the border or need to get a refill in the U.S. or Canada.
It's important to note that not all medications available in Mexico will be available in the United States and Canada. If you're prescribed a medication that's not available in the U.S. or Canada, you cannot bring it into the U.S. or have it shipped. You cannot have non-approved medications in the U.S.
Can I Use My U.S. or Canadian Insurance for Drugs in Mexico?
Mexican pharmacies do not accept U.S. or Canadian insurance. And the drugs you buy from a Mexican farmacia will not be covered by your U.S. insurance. This means that you will have to pay for your medications with cash. Be sure to factor this into the cost of your medications when you're budgeting for your trip.
How Much do Drugs Cost in Mexican Pharmacies?
The cost of drugs varies depending on the medication. Like in the U.S., brand-name drugs are more expensive than generic drugs. In most cases, you will find significant savings on medications by shopping at a Mexican pharmacy. And the American dollar goes far in Mexico due to a favorable exchange rate.
How to Bring Prescription Drugs Back into the U.S.
It's important to research which drugs are available and make sure you're only bringing back those that are legal to possess in the United States. Doing so will help ensure a hassle-free border crossing and avoid any potential problems with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
You will need to show your Passport or approved ID at the border when you return to the United States. You are required to declare prescription medications. If you choose not to declare and the border agents find them, and you do not have prescription for them, they may take them from you. Read the CBP statement on bringing drugs into the U.S. from abroad.
Rules for bringing prescription drugs to the U.S.
- Prescription drugs must be in their original, unopened containers with the label from the Mexican pharmacy, whether you needed a prescription or not.
- If you purchased medication in Mexico, you need to have your doctor's note or prescription.
- You are only allowed to bring a three-month's supply of each drug/prescription back into the United States.
- Not every drug is legal to bring back into the United States. Federal law prohibits the importation of any drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
With that said, the FDA will allow you to bring unapproved drugs into the United States under these conditions:
- Product is not for treatment of a serious condition & there is no known health risk (Over the Counter drugs); or the drug is for the treatment of a serious condition (Prescription Drugs).
- The product is for a serious condition for which effective treatment may not be available.
- There is no known commercialization or promotion of the product to persons residing in the U.S.
- The product does not represent an unreasonable risk.
- The consumer affirms in writing that the product is for personal use.
- The quantity is generally not more than a three-month supply and you must either:
- Provide the name and address of the doctor licensed in the U.S. responsible for your treatment, or
- Provide evidence that the product is for the continuation of a treatment begun in Mexico.
Read more on the FDA Website page on personal importation.
Finally, be aware that bringing prescription drugs into the United States from Mexico is subject to Customs and Border Protection regulations. For more information on what drugs, you can and cannot bring across the border, please read the Customs and Border Protection 2023 list of allowed medications.
With a little planning, you can get the medications you need while you're traveling in Mexico for much less than in the U.S. Just be sure to check the rules and regulations before you leave so that you don't run into any problems when returning to the U.S.
Mexican pharmacies can be a great resource for cheaper prescription drugs. But before you buy, be sure to do your research and understand the risks. This will help ensure that you get the medications you need without any problems.
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 the Food and Drug Administration. If you still have questions about what could be carried across the border, please contact the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration 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 in the U.S., or your deductible exceeds the funds in your pocketbook, look no further than Mexico. On Mexpro's blog you can find more information on Medical tourism in Mexico.