Medications from Canada and Mexico
What about obtaining prescription medications from Canada and Mexico?
In an effort to save money, some RVers have purchased their prescription medicines in border towns in Mexico or by mail or crossing the border into Canada. The pharmaceutical companies don't like this and have tried to make this illegal. In fact, in some circumstances it is. Here is some information on the government regulations, articles and some resources to help you decide if you want to go this route.
We have not personally tried Mexican pharmacies. Nor have we purchased drugs in Canada. Let us know if you have actual experience that would help other RVers. We'd be happy to add it.
From the State Department Web site: Drug Penalties and Prescription Medications: Penalties for drug offenses are strict, and convicted offenders can expect large fines and jail sentences up to 25 years. The purchase of controlled medication requires a prescription from a licensed Mexican physician; some Mexican doctors have been arrested for writing prescriptions without due cause. In those instances, U.S. citizens who bought the medications have been held in jail for months waiting for the Mexican judicial system to decide their fate. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from that of the United States, and Mexican public health laws concerning controlled medication are unclear and often enforced selectively. To determine whether a particular medication is controlled in Mexico, and requires a prescription from a Mexican doctor for purchase, please consult the website of the Mexican Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios - COFEPRIS) at Listado de Medicamentos Controlados, . This site is in Spanish only.
Buying Prescription Drugs: The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel to Mexico for the sole purpose of buying prescription drugs. U.S. citizens have been arrested and their medicines confiscated by the Mexican authorities when their prescriptions were written by a licensed American physician and filled by a licensed Mexican pharmacist. There have been cases of U.S. citizens buying prescription drugs in border cities only to be arrested soon after or have money extorted by criminals impersonating police officers. Those arrested are often held for the full 48 hours allowed by Mexican law without charges being filed, then released. During this interval, the detainees are often asked for bribes or are solicited by attorneys who demand large fees to secure their release, which will normally occur without any intercession as there are insufficient grounds to bring criminal charges against the individuals. In addition, U.S. law enforcement officials believe that as much as 25 percent of medications available in Mexico are counterfeit and substandard. Such counterfeit medications may be difficult to distinguish from the real medications and could pose serious health risks to consumers. The importation of prescription drugs into the United States can be illegal in certain circumstances. U.S. law generally permits persons to enter the United States with only an immediate (about one-month) supply of a prescription medication.
Safety and legality of importing drugs
- FDA page on safety of imported drugs.
- Canadian border searches: From the AARP Bulletin, October 2006: “Bowing to public and political pressure, the Department of Homeland Security agreed this week to stop confiscating the prescription drugs Americans order by mail from Canadian pharmacies.” Read the rest of the article.
- Legislation fails: MSNBC reported that in May, 2007, the Senate defeated the bill to make importation of prescription drugs from Canada legal.
Here are some resources for purchasing medications from Mexico and Canada. We have not tried these resources ourselves. If you decide to use them please let us know if your experience is good or bad.
- 3 Farmacia in Nogales, Farmacia de Jesus, Jesus Humberto Martinez & Family, Lopez Mateos No.188, Nogales, Sonora, MX; phone: 011 52 631 2 16 81. U.S. mailing address: PO Box 715, Nogales AZ 85628
- Farmacia San Francisco, Sarait "Sara" Dominguez Ruiz, Pesqueira No. 5, Nogales, MX; phone: 011 52 631 2 02 95, 011 52 631 2 02 46
- Edmundo Hernandez, Lopez Mateos No. 294, Nogales, MX; phone: 011 52 631 2 55 10.
- Other friends get dental work done by Dr. Mario Gonzalez Valenzuela. If you need a root canal, he has someone he recommends. They said he communicates by email. Address is: Obregon Ave., #19 Ste 3 Pink Building, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico C.P. 84000 US Phone 520-248-4476 (maybe 520-313-2263) they have that written also on the card. email@example.com is his email.
Update: From Cindy, who lives in Green Valley, AZ six months of the year and gets her medications in Nogales.
"I have dealt with the Farmacia de Jesus pharmacy and their prices are lower than others in the vicinity. However, you now need a prescription or your empty prescription bottles to bring this back across the border. They do not provide the prescription.
"I have checked the prices at Farmacia San Francisco and they are much higher than others in the area. They are right on the US/Mexico border and will not dispense any meds without a prescription from a US doctor.
"There is also Farmacias Benavides, that has multiple locations. You can order online and pick up your order in 3 days and also pay with a credit card."
Heads up: A few RVers have had scheduling problems in the past with Dr. Camacho's staff in Algodones (near Yuma, AZ). When Tom and Mary arrived for a long awaited appointment, the staff told them they did not have one. Tom and Mary drove a considerable distance to this appointment, only to be told the doctor wasn't in the office and that they couldn't have made an appointment for that day -- even though they had an appointment card for that date. Advice: If you use Dr. Camacho, confirm your appointment if you are not staying locally. Since this, and a related incident, took place a couple of years ago, things might have changed; but, be forewarned.
Another update- 2008: RV friends went to Agua Prieta (across from Douglas, AZ) to pick up a prescription drug. They noted that car lines were long but only three people were ahead of them in the line to walk back across the border. The pharmacies were a short walk across the border. Parking on the Douglas side was $1 for up to five hours, $5 for all day. It was a much more pleasant than trips to Algodones.
Canadian Web sites: