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Things to Know about Purchasing Medication in Nogales, Mexico


There are important things to be aware of when considering the purchase of discount pharmacy medications in Nogales, and anywhere in Mexico.

First, you need to know that there are two main activities involved in buying drugs in Mexico – purchasing the medication, and bringing that medication across the border.

Mexican Drug Groups

Mexico has a regulatory structure for medications similar to that in the United States and other countries. Its drugs are classified into six groups (similar to medication “schedules” in the U.S.).

Group 1 is the most serious and stringently controlled level of prescription medication, and includes drugs like morphine, oxycodone, codeine and methadone. On the other end of the regulatory staircase are Group VI medications, such as vitamins and herbal supplements, which do not require a prescription are not required to be sold in a pharmacy.

Controlled Medications

For those who want to purchase medications in Mexico, the most important characteristic of Mexican drug regulation is whether the pharmaceutical is “controlled” (controlado), or not controlled.

Medications categorized in Groups I through IV are considered to be controlled medications, which means that their purchase requires a prescription from a federally registered Mexican physician.

And by law the pharmacy cannot accept a prescription from a foreign doctor, just as U.S. pharmacies will not accept a prescription from a physician who is not licensed in the States. However, if you plan to bring a prescription drug across the border into the U.S. you will also need a valid prescription from a U.S. doctor.

International Differences in Drug Categories

Although the pharmaceutical regulatory systems and structures of the United States and Mexico are similar, there are some differences between the countries regarding which drugs are classified as prescription drugs.

For example, Viagra is not a controlled medication in Mexico, but it is a prescription drug in the U.S. So to purchase Viagra in Mexico, you will not need a prescription to purchase it, but you will need a prescription to bring it across the border.

So when planning to purchase drugs in Mexico, you will want to know if the medication is controlled in Mexico and whether it requires a prescription in the U.S.

Crimes and Punishment

Mexican laws impose severe penalties for purchasers and pharmacies involved in a sale of prescription medications without a Mexican doctor’s prescription.

An article by the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana mentions that if a customer purchases a controlled drug in Mexico without a prescription, Mexican police can arrest the purchaser and person in the pharmacy who sold the drugs, and charge them with possession of a controlled substance. The penalty: a prison sentence between 10 months and 15 years.

The story goes on to describe extortion schemes targeted at American pharmaceutical tourists, and “several highly publicized” cases where Americans purchased controlled medication without a Mexican prescription. Read more.

That may have happened in Tijuana, but not in Nogales. In fact, news of pharmacy extortion and arrests may seem surprising to those who have purchased prescription medications in Nogales, because police in the border tourism districts do not hassle tourists – as a matter of fact, they go out of their way to be friendly to the visitors who make such an important contribution to the local economy of Nogales, Mexico.

The bottom line is to be aware of the requirements for purchasing prescription medication in Mexico, especially as they apply to the medication you plan to purchase, and follow the rules.