Rules to be aware of when bringing prescription medicine to Mexico
When you're driving to Mexico, your medicine comes with you. This seems obvious when you're carrying something critical to your good health. However, that bottle of pills in your car might cause legal complications south of the border if you're not careful.
But first, we'd like to remind you about buying your Mexican auto insurance before you enter Mexico. It's the law. The easiest way to acquire your Mexican insurance is to purchase your policy online before you even start driving south. You can purchase & print your Mexican auto insurance in minutes from our website!
Your personal medication supply
If you cross the border hand-carrying medications for your personal use, they won't be subject to duty. If you ship them into Mexico, the Mexican Health Department requires a permit. Some people prefer to work with a customs broker to handle such details, although it's important to find a reputable broker and negotiate all fees beforehand. In either case, you should carry copies of your prescriptions to prove these medications are for your personal use. If challenged, you'll have a better case if you bring only what seems like a reasonable amount for the length of your visit.
Mexican authorities are likely to pay careful attention to travelers carrying HIV drugs or psychotropics such as Valium or opiate derivatives. And if you come from a state that permits medical marijuana, leave it at home. Regardless of anything on the books in the U.S., Mexican law enforcement has zero tolerance for anything relating to marijuana.
Not only do Mexico and the U.S. have different regulations about controlled substances, Mexican public health laws regarding pharmaceuticals seem unclear and selectively enforced. For example, even though antibiotics, heart medications, birth control pills and antidepressants require prescriptions from a licensed Mexican doctor, they're routinely sold over the counter. Learn what to expect by visiting the website of the Mexican Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (COFEPRIS).
Americans traveling in Mexico should be aware that, just like any Mexican citizen, foreigners have the right to free emergency medical attention. The Mexican Public Health Ministry and Social Security Institute operate a system of government hospitals and clinics all across the country. Keep in mind that the operative word is "emergency." The public healthcare system in Mexico is probably far less comprehensive than what you're used to at home.
Between the minimal free healthcare available in Mexico and the legal gray area surrounding the sale of controlled pharmaceuticals, it's understandable why U.S. travelers would carry their own medications. With enough good judgment and forethought, this need not be a problem.
Get more information
We recommend reading more about bringing prescription drugs back to the US if you are considering purchasing prescription drugs in Mexico with the intent to bring them back to the US.