Sunday, March 6, 2011


When I first started visiting Mexico in the mid 1960’s, you could walk in any farmacia (pharmacy), and buy whatever medication(s) you needed without a prescription. There were limitations on purchasing high potency pain relievers and psychotrophic medications. However, if you wanted medications like those and didn’t have a prescription, all you needed to do was take a stroll down to the cantina section of town where street vendors were more than happy to fill your requests.

We hear so much about the drug cartels and violence in Mexico these days that many would-be visitors are staying home. I am pleased to report that all that craziness is far from where I am living. Merida remains a safe place to visit and live. A recent article in the Washington Post tells it like it is. Read about here:
In Merida, and almost every other pat of Mexico, there seems to be a farmacia on every street corner. Competition is keen, just like in the US. There are farmacias that sell only generic medications at discounted prices. There are several large chains that compete by offering in-house specials and membership cards for additional discounts and premiums. Another gimmick used by the major chains is having a small office attached to their particular store, and staffing it with a medical doctor. You can see the doctor for the equivalent of about $2.00 - $2.50 US dollars. Another large chain offers the same service, but for FREE! The large chains have just about abolished the “mom and pop” operations, but a few still remain. And of course, we have several farmacias that sell only herbal medications, and I know of one that sells products only for the skin.

In August of 2010, a new law was passed that required a doctor’s prescription to purchase antibiotics. Apparently, so many people in the country were over-using and abusing antibiotics that the general population built up a resistance to them, and it was becoming harder and harder to fight infections. However, most other medications are available without a prescription.

I recently had a sinus infection and knew from past experience that I needed an antibiotic to get rid of it. Because of the new law, I had to have a prescription. I went to the free doctor at a farmacia near my home and was pleasantly surprised to find that the very nice young lady was actually a licensed physician. She proudly displayed all of her diplomas on the office wall. For free, she gave me an upper respiratory exam of the eyes, ears, nose and throat. She checked my throat and neck area for swollen lymph glands and asked if I had any other concerns. The doctor gave me prescriptions for three medications, and I am now free of the sinus infection I had.

If I had a serious medical issue, I would only go to Star Medica Hospital here in Merida which is staffed by some of the absolute best doctors I have ever encountered in my life. If I had a relatively minor medical issue, such as a sinus infection, I would not hesitate to go back to the doctor at the farmacia. Eligibility is based only upon your showing up. You do not have to be hooked up with any insurance program or any Mexican Social Medicine Program. If you’re sick, just go. What a great system! Competition is good for everyone.

You can still buy most medications over-the-counter. They are first class quality, manufactured by major drug companies. So, if you re thinking of visiting or moving here, don’t be overly concerned about obtaining the medications you need. They are here and they are readily available. There is a wide variety of pharmacies to choose from including the pharmacies at Sam’s Club, Costco, and WalMart.

And yes, prices are (generally) less than what you would pay in the US.

Stay healthy!



  1. We've all heard stories about medicines produced outside the US without FDA oversight that are diluted, dangerously concentrated or containing dangerous toxins. Over the years there have been a number of such instances reported in the Mexican media. Without comparing to the US, we wonder about the basis for your affirmation that medicines produced in Mexico are of first class quality as many are not eligible for export to the USA.
    Thank-you for another interesting and informative blog post. We enjoy your blog immensely.
    Saludos de Texas

  2. Thank you “Saludos de Texas” for the compliment. Your question was not unanticipated. Many years ago, I believe what you allude to was probably correct. However, today the Mexican Government has its own agency to monitor the manufacture of medications, some of which are manufactured for drug companies in the US. I don’t think that one can ever be 100% certain about the safety and validity of any mediation in any country. An example in point are the numerous commercials on US television from various law firms seeking out clients who have taken a certain prescription medication that has caused permanent damaging after affects or loss of life. Those medications were FDA approved.

    I am associated with Medical Traveler Yucatan ( and we facilitate medical and dental procedures for clients from the around the world, including Mexico, US and Canada. I actually questioned some of the doctors we work with, in addition to two of my personal physicians, on the safety and quality of the medicines here in Mexico. Basically, I was told that if you purchase your medications from a licensed pharmacy vs. a street vendor, there is no problem and that the medications here are the same as those in the US and Canada.

    I take multiple medications daily and have never had any ill effects from the medications I purchase in Mexico. I have several friends who live here and buy their prescription medications here and have never known them to have any problems. My affirmation was based upon research on the Internet, personal experience, experience of friends, experience from clients, and faith and trust I have in the physicians that I am associated with, both personally and professionally.

    Yours was a good question! Thank you.

  3. Still becareful, I do not trust med order from Canada , Mexico, internet bc so many fake drugs from India & china, cause death. So just take from what doctor's want y to buy. We are very happy about living in Houston & I am working in medical center so I know we will get the best care & we take the real medicine.

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