The Real Scoop on Prescription Drugs at Lake Chapala Ajijic !

July 25, 2008

The Real Scoop on Prescription Drugs at Lake Chapala Ajijic !


One of the most frequently asked questions that I get, next to “is it safe to drink the water?”, is about the availability of prescription drugs here at Lake Chapala Ajijic.


You may have heard that meds are cheaper in Mexico or that you can get prescription drugs that are unavailable at home.


It’s true that prescriptions available in Mexico are often significantly cheaper than in Canada or the States and that even if you don’t have a prescription, you can purchase the drugs in Mexico (as long as the drug is not a controlled substance), but here’s the “rest of the story”.


For your own safety:


·   Only purchase drugs that have been prescribed by your doctor who understands your condition and any other medications that you are taking. 


·   Bring with you a prescription bottle with a label and in your name – this is your proof that you have a prescription.  It might help you get a Mexican doctor to write a valid Mexican prescription (refer to Controlled Medicines below).


·   If your life depends on a specific medicine, then check with your doctor before considering a Mexican substitution.  For example, some heart medications are so sensitive that different brand names of drugs react differently in different people.


·   Prior to leaving Canada or the US, check with Customs about any restrictions before you buy prescription drugs in Mexico. 


·   Customs allow people to bring back a few months’ worth of a medication, but does not look favorably on stockpiling as it will be assumed it is for resale purposes.


·   Upon your return, you must declare the drugs at Customs.  So, retain all receipts.


·   Inspect the package to ensure you’re getting the right dosage level and the quantity agrees with the number on the box and that the package has not been tampered with.  Check the “fecha de caducidad”, which is the expiration date (it should be a minimum of 6 months and better 1 year).


Controlled Medicines


To purchase controlled drugs (one that has abuse potential or risk such as morphine, Percodan, Valium, etc.) in Mexico, the following is important – and if you are not sure if your medication is considered controlled, ask your doctor or pharmacist.


Also, a US or Canadian prescription is invalid in Mexico and Mexican medicines are not repackaged into bottles with a prescription label as US and Canadian medicines.  Possession of a valid prescription written by a Mexican doctor is your proof that you bought a controlled medicine legally.


·   You must have a current prescription from your doctor and the prescription can only be for you.  Customs will ask you for a valid US or Canadian prescription when you declare more than 50 doses of a controlled medicine.


·   You will then need to get a prescription from a Mexican doctor.  The larger pharmacies can refer you to an English-speaking local doctor.



·   They will keep the original prescription and make you a copy for your records.  Keep it.  Also make sure you get a receipt from the pharmacy.


·   Don’t buy more than a one-month supply and check the amount

    sold prior to leaving the pharmacy.


Prior to leaving home, ask your home druggist for specific literature about your medicine.  Your druggist receives with the medicine a small brochure of drug information called a Package Insert.


The information printed on the Package Insert is what the US FDA has sanctioned as being permitted text to describe the drug.


Bring this insert with you to Mexico as it provides in detail the formula for your medicine, information, dosage, generic name, etc.  As drugs have two names, one being a trademark and the second a generic one, the Package Insert will be required to corroborate your comparisons.


When you arrive you will want to shop around at our local pharmacies (“farmacias”) for your medicines.  There are small pharmacies, large chain pharmacies and there ones which specialize in generic drugs. 


Mexican pharmacies use a large counter top book which is similar to the Physician’s Desk Reference (or PDR) – a universally used reference book for doctors & pharmacists – and a PDR may too be present. 


Show the clerk your Package Insert and point out the dosage.  They can cross reference the names and dosages and bring you a sample for your inspection.  The clerks are experienced in identifying generic names and equivalences and perhaps identify a “Latinized” version of the same generic drug.  All the major pharmaceutical companies are present in Mexico and sometimes the brand name has been “Latinized” to local taste even though the manufacturer is identical. 


Check the label and copy down the price.  Compare with other pharmacies as prices do vary.


Coming properly prepared with information, a prescription and your package Insert, you can safely purchase your prescriptions at Lake Chapala Ajijic.


Should you need any assistance regarding your medicines, I can refer you to one or more of our excellent local clinics, hospitals or doctors.


Yours for better health.








  • Mitzi

    I’m thinking about coming in 12 months, and my mother will be coming with us we take care of her want to live over there from California, she takes 9 different medications, Diltiazam for blood pressure, lovastatin for cholesterol, levothroxin for thyroid, antibiotic low dosage 250mg for prevention of Urinary tract infection/ gabapentin for continuous nerve pain due to shingles outbreak/ inhalers advaire disk , Spiriva and albuterol inhaler and also megesterol to increase apetite, does mexico pharmacies carry these medication? I know they have some oh yes and also prednisone 5mg she takes 1 daily, has to have to open up her lungs, she uses an oxygen machine most 24 hrs, and how would I find this out who would I contact to be sure and find out pricing on these medications over there, she is 82 years old and thinking about the mascaras coverage over there in Chapala for her myself and my husband, we are 53 and 56 years old but will be living out there with my mother.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Mitzi, Thanks for your comment. You pose some important questions. Please send me an e mail to with your telephone number, time zone and the best time to call you in your time zone, I’ll call you and we can discus the health care options, prescriptions and doctors in our area.
    Look forward to helping. All for now. Tu amigo, Sid

Email for more information:

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