Isla Mujeres Pharmacia (Pharmacy)
Since I am a pharmacist, naturally I was interested in how pharmacy is practiced in Mexico. Yes, there are pharmacists. But not in every location where drugs are sold. A lot of the medications are sold in the local grocery stores and markets, but they also have pharmacies (pharmacias) as well. When we visited Cancun, the Wal-Mart had a tremendous selection of drugs as well. Almost all of the drugs are available without a prescription. Only drugs that are identified as "drugs of abuse" (Valium, Morphine, etc.) require a prescription.
I visited a local pharmacy and spoke with the pharmacist, who spoke no English. We were able to communicate, though, and he told me that his advanced degree was in chemistry, not pharmacy. He had owned this drugstore for 20 years.
He showed me the Mexican version of the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference). I was easily able to identify the drugs using their generic names.
One thing that surprised me was that there are no generic drug manufacturers in Mexico. All drugs are manufactured by the major drug companies and they are all brand-name products.
When I thought about drugs in Mexico, I always heard about people crossing the border to obtain drugs there because they are cheaper. This is not true! I looked at the price for Zestoretic 20/12.5 and a box of unit-dose 28 tablets was $53! We can get 100 of these in the states in the generic version for about 10% of this price. So, it is hard for me to understand how the Mexican locals can afford to pay for their drugs.
I guess people are crossing the border to obtain drugs that are not available in the US, particularly anti-cancer drugs. Many of these drugs are considered to be controversial treatments in the USA and are not FDA approved. Also, tourists buy a lot of drugs that require a doctor's visit and prescription in the US.
Another thing I noticed was that there were sometimes different formulations of drugs we had in the USA. Notice the Voltaren Emulgel in the box below. A gel form of Voltaren is not available in the US.
Pharmacists will recognize many drugs that are familiar to them.
Tourists will recognize some of the drugs, too.
I am sure there is a lot of Viagra purchased here by the gringos (and Mexicans as well!).
In many ways, the pharmacy looks like our local drugstores back home.... stocking shampoo, toothpaste, Advil and Maalox, and a huge selection of suntan products.
Hope you enjoyed my little pharmacy tour!
Click here to return to Travel Log.