Many older Americans head south to avoid harsh winter climates, and, as AP News reported, some also take advantage of savings offered at Mexican pharmacies. An estimated 106,000 people winter in the Rio Grande Valley alone, and over 40 percent of those people admit to purchasing prescription drugs across the border, but this is a classic case of caveat emptor. In the article, The Partnership for Safe Medicines’ (PSM) Board President Marv Shepherd, who is also a leading authority on the sale of prescription drugs in Mexico, warned that counterfeit drugs are an issue in that country, with the Mexican government estimating that up to 20 percent of drugs in that country are fake.
The Americans in this article are retirees and spoke about how much they were saving by buying their medicines in Mexico. One person said if their prescriptions were more affordable in the U.S., they would purchase them here. They are unaware that it is possible for them to find equally cheap or even cheaper medicine here in the U.S. with the added security of knowing that their medications are approved U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
One woman quoted in the article stated that 60 tablets of Glucophage, the brand-name version of metformin, cost her $70 in the U.S., but she only pays $18 in Mexico. PSM checked to see what the best cash price for 60 500-milligram metformin HCL would be in the area of Michigan that she is from, and that price was only $4.00 at Walmart. A three-month supply of 180 500-milligram tablets would only cost her $10.00. Both of these prices are better than the brand-name price she paid in Mexico for pills that come with a one in five chance of being fakes. A second woman mentioned that she and her husband purchased amoxicillin when they traveled across the border to see a dentist. No quantity or price was given for their purchase, but the article mentioned they are from Wisconsin and the best cash price we could find in that area was $3.34 for 21 500-milligram capsules at Walmart.
All of these individuals most likely receive their medical and prescription benefits through Medicare. While a recently enacted law immediately banned pharmacy gag clauses for individuals who pay for their own insurance or receive it through an employer, the same benefits will not go into effect for people on Medicare until January 1, 2020. Until that time, people on Medicare need to remember to ask their pharmacist about any savings. It is possible to research what the cash price would be before going to the pharmacy by using either WellRx.com or GoodRx.com. If you have a smartphone, both of these companies also have apps on either iTunes or the Google Play store that you can install so you can check prices wherever you are. Both of these companies have approval from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Better Business Bureau.