Best Practices to Safely, Legally Source Prescription Medications in Mexico
Authors: Michael R. Agostino, RPh, Joseph M. Acierno, MD, JD and Laura Rogge,
Network of Advanced Specialty Healthcare (NASH)
Surging U.S. healthcare inflation and rising prescription drug prices – especially for specialty pharmaceuticals- cause millions of U.S. residents to travel abroad for care each year. The main appeal of the travel-for-treatment industry is the significant cost savings on surgical procedures, like dental, cosmetic, oncology, cardiology, and orthopedics, and branded prescription drugs. Now more than ever, health plan sponsors need this cost-effective option for their employees and their company’s bottom line.
Inflated Prescription Drug Costs
U.S. prescription drug prices are over 2.5 times higher than prices in similar high-income nations. Today, specialized medications account for 55% of U.S. drug expenditure. This figure is expected to increase by an 8% compound annual growth rate by 2025.
Prescription drug costs are a primary concern among employer groups of all sizes that are seeing an increase in employee utilization of healthcare services that require additional medication expenditures. As a result, employers can expect moderate to significant cost increases in their health plans. According to Mercer, health benefit cost growth will accelerate to 5.6% in 2023. This financial burden impacts employers and employees in various ways, including employee premium contributions, deductibles and copay increases that lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Given financial strain, many participants resort to postponing treatment, do not fill scripts, or ration and skip prescription doses.
As employer groups set priorities to sustain medical coverage as a benefit, many are considering alternative approaches to mitigating costs associated with the surging prices of specialty drugs, including embracing travel-for-treatment programs. Financially incentivizing employees to travel across borders for treatment and prescription medications is one initiative intended to lower the cost of insurance and healthcare services. Self-funded employers can leverage this opportunity to achieve improved healthcare outcomes for their employees at a fraction of their current healthcare spend.
Medication Procurement in Mexico
Mexican pharmacies offer branded prescription medications at lower prices than the U.S. The price difference is significant: certain medications cost up to 80% less when procured in Mexico.
To legally purchase prescription drugs in Mexico, Americans must comply with the same protocols as they would in the U.S. This means obtaining prescriptions from a licensed Mexican doctor and buying them at a registered Mexican pharmacy. According to the FDA, U.S. citizens can transport a three-month (90-day) supply of drugs prescribed to them. A prescription from an American healthcare provider will not meet this criterion.
Best Practices When Using a Mexican Pharmacy
Drug purity, safety and effectiveness should be primary concerns, as these medications – sometimes infusion therapies — cannot be monitored or guaranteed unless administered by a reliable, trustworthy clinician who is licensed and credentialed by the Mexican government.
To obtain legal and safe medications from Mexico, U.S. travelers should abide by these protocols:
- Obtain a Valid PrescriptionGet a written prescription from a Mexican physician licensed by Mexico’s federal government. We recommend you verify their credentials at www.cedulaprofesional.sep.gob.mx.
- Locate a Travel-for-Treatment Intermediary or Pharmacy
After a consultation with a medical professional, purchase the prescription from a reputable pharmacy that can provide evidence of a valid license to operate within the Mexican state where they are located. Federally approved suppliers are a source of authentic medications, serving as trusted intermediaries between licensed pharmacies and their retail customers. This process helps to ensure product safety and quality.
Confirm the intermediary or pharmacy only dispenses FDA-approved and COFEPRIS-registered medications
Sometimes, medications have different brand and trade names in Mexico. Before purchasing, it is essential to check for the prescription’s correct generic or scientific name. Ask the physician if they purchase their medicines from COFEPRIS-licensed suppliers. *COFEPRIS (Commission Federal para la Proteccion contra Riesgos Sanitarios), is Mexico’s equivalent to the FDA. Illegal “pop-up pharmacies” are NOT COFEPRIS licensed. Ensure a licensed Mexican physician administers the drugs as required by Mexico and enforced by the FDA for exportation to the U.S.
- Be Cautious of Counterfeit Medications, Recognize Signs of Tampering
Consumers should be cautious of counterfeit medicines. Sometimes they can resemble authentic brands, but these knockoff medications may be ineffective, have the wrong strength or contain harmful ingredients. Always ensure drugs come in their original unopened packaging, tamper-resistant seals are intact and there are no signs of damage.
About the Authors
Michael R. Agostino, RPh is CEO of NASH. Mike is a registered pharmacist and a seasoned entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Value creation, strategic shaping, and building strong industry relationships fuel Mike’s purpose.
Joseph M. Acierno, MD, JD, is the Chief Medical Officer of NASH.
Laura Rogge has been in the healthcare industry for 20 years. As Senior Vice President of Health Services at NASH, Laura is responsible for business development growth. Her expertise includes developing strategies, leading teams, and optimizing revenue.
The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.