Risks to be aware of if you are considering purchasing prescription medications in Mexico
Driving to Mexico gives you more room for souvenirs than if you packed your suitcases and boarded a plane. However, if you plan on collecting pharmaceutical drugs for personal use or resale back in the States, the odds are not in your favor.
But first, whatever your reason for traveling south of the border, Mexican law requires that you purchase your Mexican auto insurance before entering the country. The easiest way to purchase your Mexican insurance policy is by taking care of it online before you leave home.
If you plan to bring your prescription medications from the US with you on your trip to Mexico, please read our page on bringing US prescription drugs to Mexico.
Legal realities in Mexico
With the high cost of drugs in the U.S., many people are tempted to fill their prescriptions elsewhere at a lower cost. But just like in the U.S., the Mexican government regulates pharmaceuticals, and you'll face constantly changing laws about what's allowed to leave the country. Whether you buy prescription or over-the-counter drugs, that counter should belong to a licensed Mexican pharmacist. And without a prescription or from the wrong source, your purchase could earn you up to 25 years in jail. Even if you don't receive a sentence or a fine, you could still be detained for months while your case is reviewed. Probably not the kind of Mexican vacation you had in mind. To learn more about drug regulation within Mexico, visit the website of the Mexican Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS)..
The U.S. Customs agency advises that, in order to bring drugs home from Mexico, you must be carrying a prescription from a licensed US physician, and up to 50 dosage units of the medication (about one-to-three months' supply) in its original packaging. Also, you are required to declare these drugs when reentering the States. Failure to follow these steps will result in confiscation and possibly arrest.
As a standard travel advisory, the U.S. Embassy recommends that American citizens avoid Mexican shopping trips for prescription drugs. There are many reports of arrests and confiscations by Mexican police even when travelers are carrying prescriptions by a licensed American physician and drugs purchased from a licensed Mexican pharmacist. The Embassy also cites cases from border cities where U.S. citizens were arrested after making their purchase, or illegally harassed and detained by criminals impersonating police officers. Mexican law allows suspects to be held 48 hours without charges, and during those two days, bribes may be expected, or costly attorneys might pitch unnecessary services. Americans not fluent in Spanish or versed in the Mexican legal system can easily be taken advantage of. Don't be one of them.
In what might be the final irony, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that up to 25 percent of Mexican pharmaceuticals are counterfeit and substandard. This may not be easy for the average consumer to gauge, which may result in serious health risks.
For all of these reasons, purchasing prescription drugs in Mexico for the purpose of bringing them back to the US is currently not recommended.