If you were born in the Rio Grande Valley, or have lived here for a while, you may be among the thousands that go across the border to get prescription medications. Pharmaceuticals can be a huge bargain on the other side of the border, but in some situations it may be a case of buyer beware.
If you cross the Progreso International Bridge into Mexico you will immediately see a tourist haven. The frontera is filled with gift shops, restaurants, and men in front of pharmacies; many eager to get your attention.
As you walk there are pharmacies upon pharmacies as far as the eye can see. Despite a campaign promise from President Trump to reduce prescription drug prices a recently released AP report shows drug prices continue to rise. Many U.S. Citizens flock to Mexico to buy prescription drugs.
“They are bringing me the label and they are saying Mr. Saenz, I have this medication here, it’s the same thing that you’re going to dispense. The same manufacture, the same color of tablet, everything is the same. So why am I getting it so cheap in Mexico?”
Jesus Saenz is the owner and operator of Saenz Pharmacies in the Rio Grande Valley. He says Americans buying prescription drugs in Mexico is nothing new, but says buyers need to be cautious and ask questions before purchasing.
“The way the medication should be stored and handled, if they being refrigerated, are they being kept at room temperature the way the medication should be kept in? Do they have an expiration date?”
While the FDA oversees the U.S. drug industry, prescription drugs in Mexico are not as heavily regulated. Saenz says he see first hand why many go to Mexico for drugs.
“A lot of those people don’t have insurance. If they do have insurance, they don’t have a prescription card so they have to pay cash.”
Saenz says there are certain drugs where the safety may override the savings.
“When it comes to diabetic medications, blood thinners, blood pressure, cholesterol, you know I would be very hesitant to get it across; either in Mexico, Canada, or other countries.”
KVEO wanted to see the pharmacy operations in Mexico first hand. We traveled to Progreso and spoke with a Mexican pharmacist.
Victor Rivera Venegas says buyers can save lots and lots of money purchasing prescription drugs in Mexico. Sometimes even with insurance the drugs are cheaper in Mexico. While Venegas can’t speak on behalf of all pharmacies, he says the health and safety of his client is of the highest importance.
Just because you have made a prescription drug purchase in Mexico that does not necessarily mean you can bring the drug back across the border. Philip Barrera, a supervisor with U.S. Customs and Border Protection says there are a few things to keep in mind.
“One of the things we look for is to make sure the prescription or drugs that they are bringing are not prohibited. For example the rohypnols, the GHB’s, which are commonly known as date rape drugs.”
Barrera says taking the risk of bringing prohibited drugs across can result in fines and possibly charges. Bring a U.S. prescription if possible and always declare prescription drugs.
“The main message is to declare everything. If your not sure let us know and we will let you know. If these are allowed and these are not. The other thing is do not try and smuggle them because you will be facing the consequences for that.”
Jesus Saenz says it’s critical after you buy prescription drugs that you are consulted. Taking the wrong drug or drugs that is not effective can lead to bigger problems.
“If you’re taking a chance because that infection might linger and linger and then It might affect your other organs. Trying to save some money you end up with a big hospital bill because that infection has spread.”
Outside the quality control issues with drugs from Mexico is the violence in that country. A person could be risking their life trying to get cheap medication.