Buying Prescription Drugs in Mexico

Mexico’s laws governing medicines are similar to those in the United States. Any drug classified as a controlled medicine cannot be purchased in Mexico without a Mexican prescription. This prescription must be written by a Mexican federally registered physician. Purchasing a controlled medicine without a valid prescription in Mexico is a serious crime for both the purchaser and the seller. Purchasing a controlled medicine with a U.S. prescription is not sufficient and is illegal, regardless of what the Mexican pharmacy may be willing to sell to the purchaser. By law, Mexican pharmacies cannot honor foreign prescriptions.

In Mexico, medications such as Valium, Vicodin, Placidyl, Ambien, codeine, pseudoefedrine, Demerol, morphine, and Ativan are not legally sold over-the-counter without a valid prescription from a Mexican physician. If the purchaser succeeds in purchasing controlled medicines without a prescription, Mexican police can arrest the purchaser and vendor and charge them with possession/sale of a controlled substance. The sentence for possession of a controlled substance runs from ten months to fifteen years in a Mexican prison. Making such an illegal purchase also puts the buyer at risk for various extortion scams perpetuated by police officials (who sometimes work in league with the very pharmacy that sold the medication).

There are a number of medications considered controlled substances in Mexico which are not controlled in the United States. To find out if a medication is considered controlled in Mexico, purchasers should ask their Mexican physician or pharmacist. Purchasers may also refer to the following Mexican government website (in Spanish, listing generic and brand names) for information on controlled substances in Mexico:

To bring the medications into the United States, travelers will need to show a valid U.S. prescription to the inspector at the Port of Entry. The U.S. prescription is in addition to the Mexican prescription used to purchase the medications in Mexico. For more information on bringing medications into the United States, purchasers may refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website:

Over the last few years, there have been several highly publicized arrests of Americans purchasing controlled medications without a Mexican prescription. We hope to reduce the numbers of Americans arrested in Mexico for possession of controlled items by disseminating this information.