Love Thy Pharmacist: Prescription Drugs in Mexico Might Not Be What They Seem

“Access to pharmacists is the most valuable benefit when buying your medications in the United States,” says Lacy Daniels, PhD.

Aug 5, 2008

If your summer travels take you south of the border into Mexico, pharmacists say you should avoid the temptation of saving a few dollars by purchasing your medications at farmacias, which sell versions of American prescription drugs made in Mexico.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) performs inspections at the pharmaceutical manufacturing plants. This quality control process ensures that active ingredients are included at correct levels and that the release rate of the medication is accurate. The FDA does not monitor pharmaceutical manufacturing plants in Mexico.

Lacy Daniels, PhD, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville, said that lack of oversight exposes those who purchase their prescription medications in Mexico to potentially deadly risks.

Currently, very few studies have been conducted on the quality of Mexican drugs, Dr. Daniels said. However, a study conducted by the University of Arizona in 2005 confirmed his concerns.

“Of the three medications they examined, two of them were perfectly fine in terms of the active ingredient being 100 percent of what it should be,” Dr. Daniels said. “However, the third one was an antibiotic, and the active ingredient was only present at one-tenth of the concentration it should have been. If this were used to treat a critically ill patient, the patient could have died.”

In addition to quality control measures by the FDA, Dr. Daniels said, access to pharmacists is the most valuable benefit when buying your medications in the United States.

“If you are taking several prescription drugs, one can interact with the others,” Dr. Daniels said. “If you walk into a pharmacy and just buy one prescription alone, then that pharmacist does not know what else you may be taking. In Mexico, pharmacies typically do not have a pharmacist in the building; it is a technician who knows the names of drugs. Their job is to sell. They may know something about the drug, but they don’t have the depth of knowledge to understand drug interactions and side effects.”

Source: Texas A&M Health Science Center

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Posted by Anonymous on 6 August 2008

This sounds like pharma industry FUD, mostly.

An informed purchaser of medicines in Mexico can trust both a) medicines manufactured by the same global pharma labs that exist in the US or Europe, and b) medicines that display the indication "G.I." or "genérico intercambiable", which indicates that bioequivalency and bio-availability tests have been done to prove that the pharmaceutical molecules are present in the same concentrations as the leading brand for that medication and display equivalent effects within a patient's body.

I agree that a licensed pharmacist adds value for consumers in terms of looking out for potential drug conflicts or interactions, but again we are assuming that these patients have been advised by doctors aware of their treatment regimens.

A simple rule would be to go to established chain pharmacies. The widely available "Farmacias Similares" do not necessarily sell G.I. medications, so products purchased there are on average less reputable, and could result in situations such as that expressed in the article about the antibiotic at 10% concentration.

Disclaimer: I work for the largest pharmacy chain in Mexico, but I am also well aware of the quality of the medications which we sell, and that the US industry very much wants to undermine US consumers' confidence in products purchased in Mexico, which could honestly save money for them.

Posted by rpfeifer51 on 8 August 2008

I don't agree with Dr. Daniels. This article seems intended more to frighten than inform. You hear the same scare reporting from pharma about drugs from Canada. Many large drug companies like Pfizer and Lilly manufacture drugs in Mexico because of cheaper labor costs...not to make an inferior product. I would much rather see an article educating consumers on how to control their drug costs than this obviously biased commentary.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 August 2008

Is the writer implying that US drugs are safe or even US drugs. My pharmacy tells me that all their drugs are generic and that the ingredients come from China.

That may explain why on so many are experiencing strange and pretty awful reactions to generics and others doing just fine on them.

Who even manufacturers their drugs in the states anymore. Years ago, I learned that most of our drugs were made in India, Isreal, New Zeland. Those were safe and standardized. China is a different story and yet the FDA allows it.

China can produce excellant product from one factory and garbage from another...

Posted by seashele on 9 September 2008

This is a scare tactic article written on behalf of the pharma companies raking in huge profits off us Americans. They don't want us buying medications in Mexico or Canada because they sell for less there which means less profit for the companies. You can not honestly expect me to believe that name brand companies like Pfizer make inferior drugs for everyone besides the U.S. They are all the same stuff, just with Spanish or French on the packaging in addition to or instead of English.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 October 2014

I have bought lantus insulin in Mexico and observed that it is made in Germany the same as can be purchased in the States. Half the price.

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