Medical tourism is a booming industry in Mexico, and prescription drug purchases are a niche in that industry that is attracting more and more people. For example, a three month supply of insulin can cost nearly $4,000 in the United States. While that same amount costs as little as $600 which is big savings in Mexico.
The exorbitant cost of insulin in the United States is a big problem, as people have a limited supply (as they can’t afford how much they need), resulting in complications from diabetes that would otherwise be avoided. The United States government states that approximately 1,000,000 people from California alone go to Mexico each year for reasons such as these.
Not to mention there are a lot of beautiful things to do and see in Mexico, making it not only a cost-saving endeavor but a fun weekend vacation for the family. Just remember that if you plan to take a medical tourism trip to Mexico, you’ll need to purchase Mexican Auto Insurance – as US auto policies are not recognized by Mexican officials.
This industry is so lucrative, that recently in Utah the Public Employee Health Plan implemented a Pharmacy Tourism Program. Certain members of the PEHP who use expensive prescription medications are eligible to have PEHP pay to fly themselves and a companion to San Diego and then drive to a hospital in Tijuana. Then they can retrieve a 90-day supply of their medicine.
Many people will be asking themselves whether or not this practice is legal, as it is not too far away from drug trafficking in a sense. According to the FDA, it is illegal for people to bring drugs into the US for personal use. However, the FDA’s website offers guidelines about exceptions to this rule. Despite the grey area in terms of legality, going to Mexico for pharmaceutical drug savings is a very common practice.
Although bringing prescription medicine back across the border is technically a violation of FDA policy, the general enforcement is that a 90-day supply is acceptable. It’s likely that the FDA has too many other things on its plate to worry about persecuting people for doing something just to save a little money, that doesn’t do harm to anyone.
Another perspective the FDA has is that they cannot guarantee the safety and purity of prescription drugs purchased in Mexico, raising some health concerns. However, the PEHP in Utah only send their patients to certified Mexican hospitals, so this is most likely a non-issue.