According to the Consulate General of the United States, it is actually not legal to purchase pharmaceutical drugs in Mexico and transport them across the border. There is a warning on their webpage, if you are willing to search for such information and prepared to follow their advice.
That said, it is common knowledge that countless people buy their blood pressure, arthritis, birth control and other drugs in Mexico, while on vacation, or heading back to the USA or Canada after spending the snowbird season in Puerto Vallarta.
There is a “controlled list” and it is likely you will need a prescription for anything included on this list, such as painkillers, tranquilizers, and some diet pills. Cipro, the antibiotic, has also been added to this category.
Most pharmacies have a doctor either in house or as close as a doorway apart, who will give an inexpensive consultation and provide a prescription. Pharmacists are also very knowledgeable, whether in Mexico or stateside, often knowing a lot more about the drugs than the doctors who prescribe them. Just because you have a prescription for a controlled substance doesn’t mean it will be accepted by US Customs. It has been recommended that you obtain a prescription from a Mexican doctor, as well. And it’s never wise to play doctor with your own health.
In 2010, during the Swine Flu debacle, many people were buying the antibiotic Cipro in bulk to take back to the states and in some instances, improperly self-medicating, which forced Mexican authorities to transfer Cipro to the controlled list. At this point in time, it’s the only antibiotic on that list. However, due to an alleged increase in drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases, there has been a recent (since 2010) tightening in distribution of antibiotics.
A three month supply of any drug is the considered limit and you are supposed to be carrying your own pills.
What will happen to you if you’re caught? They can take them away. Your chances of being fined or going to jail are of mythical proportions.
How often do travelers have their pill supplies confiscated? We, personally, have known of no one who has confronted this situation. But we are not the authority and recommend exercising caution. You didn’t hear it from us but we know of people who have used empty aspirin bottles to store supplies. Another suggestion is to use a pill divider and fill each tiny box to the brim.
The next question is where to buy? On this matter, we propose doing a fair amount of personal research. It won’t take long. There are a LOT of pharmacies (farmacias) in Puerto Vallarta so you can probably circle a block and hit just about every Brand. Do comparison shopping. Don’t be afraid to stand in line and ask questions. Most stores will have someone who speaks English and they won’t try to sell you something you don’t specifically request.
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Thanks to our Guest Blogger Adam Garcia for this great article!
Harriet Cochran Murray, Director of Cochran Real Estate, is a seasoned Real Estate professional both here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and in the United States. Harriet has served in many capacities as a board member and President for the local Real Estate Association AMPI (AMPI is the national association of real estate professionals). She is also a member of FIABCI and NAR in the United States. Harriet’s expertise and experience in the Real Estate and especially in the Mexican market makes her Viewpoint blog articles both informational and intriguing. Harriet is a Buyer’s Agent who specializes in getting the best deal on the right property for her clients.