Crossing The Border For Drugs

While visiting my daughter in San Diego recently, we made a day trip into Tijuana, Mexico as many tourists do. One of my interests there was visiting one of the many pharmacies selling American pharmaceuticals. You can walk into any one of these drug stores and, for the most part, buy medications without a prescription. This is actually the way most of the world, outside the United States, functions.

If you become ill, first you go to the pharmacy and the pharmacist will give you something for the symptoms you describe to him, then if you don't get better you go to the doctor.

The drugs were quite a bit cheaper than here up north and a good number of U.S. citizens who live in the west and southwest travel regularly to Mexico to buy medications­­ especially the elderly.

The pharmacist let me look at the medications I inquired about and indeed they appeared the same­­ even with the same kinds of trademarks on the tablets. When I asked him if drugs could be mail ordered he said, "no."

One of the television news magazine shows recently covered a story about this very subject and one CEO from a pharmaceutical company stated that they sold drugs to Mexican pharmacies at a substantial discount because the average Mexican citizen would not have access to medications otherwise. Is that their story? The pharmacies were all very busy but it wasn't the locals who were buying; it was mostly American tourists.

Two days before we went to Mexico the local news covered a story about a San Diego man who was on several medications, including some for high blood pressure, something for gout, sleeping medications and Prozac®. He had purchased over $500 worth of drugs and when he failed to declare them at the border, he was arrested by Mexican authorities. The Mexican police claimed they were doing away with a drug dealer. The man claimed his health was very bad and he was only doing what everyone else does. The authorities also claimed that if it was illegal in the U.S. it was illegal in Mexico, too.

So what are the laws here in the states? The law states very clearly that a U.S. citizen can have a three-month supply of a drug for an orphan disease (a disease that does not have a "cure") for personal use, regardless of whether or not the drug is FDA approved. We have the AIDS movement to thank for this­­ and God bless them for it.

I realize we do not live in the southwest and Mexico is not a short trolley ride away. But I do talk to people from this area who winter there and buy their drugs in Mexico. If you do, be safe; know the law.

The other precautions mentioned in the San Diego paper were: take your signed prescriptions with you from your doctor; if they ask you to declare what you have purchased, don't hide your medications; and don't buy large quantities of drugs that would resell on the street here such as Valium®, Prozac® or pain medications.

Till next time, Rebecca

This article posted to Zephyr online May 31, 1997
Back to the Zephyr home
page.Send us e