Can Americans drive to Mexico to fill a prescription?

Answered by Gabriel Levitt, MA | Posted December 21, 2018

In general, while it’s technically federally prohibited, you can drive to Mexico, buy medication and bring it back, as long as it's for your personal use. It's well known that many Americans travel to Mexico for brand-name medications, which are sold at a fraction of the U.S. price tag. This is in addition to other lower-cost health medical services. Patients will find that many of those brand-name medicines sold in Mexico are the exact same ones sold in the U.S., the only difference being cost.

There is a special provision in law that prevents the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from stopping people who bring personal use quantities of FDA-approved medication back from Canada— even though it's technically prohibited. That provision does not, however extend to Mexico.

See: Can I drive to Canada to fill a prescription?

If the medication requires a prescription in Mexico, then you will need to get a copy of a Mexican prescription to fill your order in person.

Legality of Importing Prescription Medication from Mexico

Since 2000, millions of Americans with inadequate or no drug coverage, as well as those seeking critical medications that are not available domestically, have purchased medication from foreign pharmacies. This process is known as personal drug importation. The U.S. government generally does not stop individuals from importing medication for their own use (usually up to a three-month supply of non-controlled drugs).

Individuals are not prosecuted for personal drug importation (importing small quantities of medication for personal use, not re-sale). The FDA itself says its enforcement efforts around importation are focused on drugs imported for commercial use, fraudulent drugs and products that pose high health risks.

While the law allows the FDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to detain and refuse personal drug imports by mail, less than one percent are actually stopped when the patient has ordered from a pharmacy that requires a prescription. Under U.S. law, the FDA must provide you with due process to challenge that decision to take away your medication.  

Be advised that the U.S FDA regulates the safety and efficacy of medications sold in U.S. pharmacies. Medications dispensed from Mexico are regulated for safety and efficacy by the Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS), Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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Ordering Medication Online from Mexico

Currently, there are no online pharmacies in Mexico that are verified by PharmacyChecker.com. Several online pharmacies in Mexico sell medicines but without requiring a prescription, which makes them ineligible for the PharmacyChecker Verification Program. A licensed pharmacy in Mexico, with the proper prescription requirements and subject to inspection, could potentially qualify for the Verification Program.

Please read our Ask PharmacyChecker answer to learn more: Are there safe online pharmacies in Mexico?

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Updated January 22, 2020

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