Seniors Buying Drugs in Mexico Despite Risks
In increasing numbers, U.S. seniors are crossing the border into Mexico to purchase "their favorite prescription drugs" for up to 80% less than what they would pay in the United States, the New York Times reports. Since the mid-1990s, particularly after the collapse of President Clinton's health care plan and the annual 10%-15% rise in prescription drug costs, the border pharmacy business has been "booming." According to academic and government experts, about one-third of all U.S. citizens visiting Mexico return with prescription medicines. Of that number, the Times reports, one-quarter have obtained "readily abused sedatives and steroids." Like seniors purchasing medicines in Canada, the buyers in Mexico "come from all over, sometimes on tour buses advertising 'Mexican drug runs,' often carrying shopping lists for friends and family." However, in Mexico, U.S. buyers do not need a prescription, nor is there any paperwork to fill out. Recently, the House passed an amendment to a bill that would allow seniors to legally purchase drugs from Mexico online or through the mail.
Despite the advantages of buying drugs in Mexico, there is "trouble in this pharmaceutical paradise" -- American consumers' demand for cheap drugs has fueled a "global market in counterfeit, adulterated and stolen medicine that mimics the international narcotics trade," the Times reports. Congressional testimony on prescription drugs in Mexico indicates that pharmacy shelves "hold medicines that have been donated or sold at cost to poor countries, stolen by corrupt officials, then diverted to Mexico." Also, unlike their experiences in U.S. pharmacies, American buyers are not likely to find consumer warnings and "professional consultations" when purchasing their medicines in Mexico. Although there is a concern about the quality of medicines that U.S. residents are purchasing in Mexico, there exists no "hard evidence ... that a great deal of the medicine" sold in Mexico "is fake or adulterated." The Times reports that potential dangers are unlikely to discourage seniors such as Dolores Huff, who said, "The point is the cost. And so long as our public officials and our pharmaceutical companies keep the price of medicine fixed, whenever we go to Mexico, whenever someone we know goes to Mexico, or whenever someone we know has someone going for them, we are going to make a shopping list" (Weiner, New York Times, 8/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.