FAQ: Medications & Health Care In Mexico

The pros-and-cons of purchasing medications and health care in Mexico has turned into a major topic on this blog and also on our main People’s Guide To Mexico website.  For that reason I’ll now publish medication and health related questions and answers here, so if the topic interests you, please subscribe to the Comments in order to be notified of new posts.

March 1, 2010

Carl & Lorena,

Thanks for publishing your excellent website “The People’s Guide to Mexico”. I have read through some of the pages including the ones on prescription medication and your advice for visiting a local doctor.

I live in DC and I am traveling to Cancun next week for a little R & R for 6 days with my wife. I am interested in having an evaluation of possible sciatica symptoms including an MRI and an Orthopaedic Physician Interview. I also have insomnia and am interested in a Physician appointment for a possible prescription for insomnia medication. I wondered how to go about seeking these doctor appointments with this short notice or after my arrival in Cancun and if you can recommend particular physician groups, clinics, hospitals, &/or pharmacies.

I understand Cancun is not a large metropolitan area & is mainly geared towards recreation, but I have seen on the Internet that there are certainly local clinics and probably the facilities for diagnostic radiology evaluation. One of these is called Amerimed (http://www.amerimed-hospitals.com/index.html) if you have heard of them.

My intention is to have an evaluation of my symptoms so I can learn about them before I subject myself to the whims of my local Profit-motive oriented US health insurance company. Don’t really trust them to look out for my interests vs their own as you may guess.

Sincerely, Nish Dave’

==========================

Feb 27, 2010

I came across your very informative Mexico guide web site while researching pharmacies in Mexico.  I live in San Diego, and am looking for a reliable drug store in Tiajuana. I tried to call the “El Fenix” # you have listed but it seems outdated?

(I know Tijuana now has an area code of “646”). Do you happen to know of another current number for them??

thank you. tom

Carl replies: I’m afraid that Lorena and I don’t have the time, energy or resources to keep track of individual businesses in Mexico.  I didn’t even know, for example, that Tijuana’s area code had changed, so you’re already ahead of me there.  My usual response to questions of this sort is to hope that one this blog’s readers will chime in with updated information.  And on that note I want to remind everyone:   we can’t do this by ourselves — we not only appreciate contributions from our readers, we depend on them to keep current!

8 Responses to “FAQ: Medications & Health Care In Mexico”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. el codo says:

    Since those first articles went on the website more and more discount farmacias have made their appearance in Mexico. Tijuana is awash in good pharmacies and unless you are looking for a really uncommon (read expensive brand name only) medication, then I would, since you are already in San Diego, just go.

    Farmacias SIMILARES is now the top leader in the number of farmacias in Mexico and I am not exaggerating when I say that Tijuana has more than a HUNDRED farmacias similares outlets.

    Cross the border and take a taxi to the nearest farmacia similares near the tourist zone TJ taxi drivers usually speak excellent english. The inventory of medicines in a farmacia similares is computerized but they may have a limited stock of your medicines on hand.

    If your medication is unusual ask your taxi driver to take you to a FIRST CLASS FARMACIA like FARMACIAS GUDADLAJARA. There are several dozens of first class farmacias in TJ.

    Most of the tourist zone farmacia personnel speak at least some english. Mexican farmacias use a huge book similar to the USA Physician’s Desk Reference, the Mexican equivalent is known as the DEF Dicionario Especiadades Faramacuticas. Both are published by Thompson Publications, USA.

    Telephone calls are at best a bit risky unless your spanish is excellent. Your order may be misunderstood, the quantity needed may be misunderstood or the employee may just not give a damn.

    The American PDR has deifferent sections covering each drug listed. On one page is the chemical molecular formula for the drug that you seek. The DEF has a similar page, Chemical symbology is universal and if your PDF chemical structure agrees with the structure of the medication that you intend to purchase then you can be assured that the medications are one and the same. MAKE SURE THAT ANY MEDICATIONS YOU TAKE are not long-acting variants of a normal lasting medication. If yes, your USA medications are long acting make sure when purchasing Mexican medications that they specifically say ACCION PROLONGADA.

    Take notes from the articles if necessary. Sorry about the phone number but using the phone is a futile excercise. Worst case: You’ll have a lovely day.

  2. “Dr Simi” (Farmacias Similares) is our first choice for common generics. These franchises are inexpensive and they accept U.S. dollars at a favorable rate. They also maintain an M.D. on site who charge thirty pesos to listen to your symptoms (in Spanish) and prescribe something suitable. They are found everywhere except the most heavily touristed area between the border and Revolución.

    Gusher is more traditional in its approach. They offer a very wide selection of brand-name and generic drugs as well as free advice from licensed, bilingual pharmacists. The main store in in the middle of the southern side of Plaza Río.

    A cab ride to either should cost about five dollars. Details can be found on our blog under the “transportation” tag.

    There are thousands upon thousands of pharmacies in Tijuana and we don’t mean to slight venerable ones such as El Fénix, Roma, or Benavides. There are also boisterous pharmacies (often painted red and yellow) that are best avoided.

    Along the tourist walk, people dressed in costume lab coats and shouting in English try to rope people into their pharmacies. These are not pharmacists: they are sales agents and most are working on commission only.

    We agree with El Codo that you should purchase your medications in person. Fifteen or twenty years ago, when pharmacies were trying to do international mail order, placing an order by phone was a possibility. Nowadays having a phone number could be useful only if you need to call ahead to ensure that some unusual medication is on hand for your arrival.

    The Real Tijuana is a blog that describes northern Baja California from the inside. People who actually live in the Tijuana-Tecate-Ensenada triangle address issues of local culture, recreation, cuisine, health care, travel, real estate, retirement, and history with the goal of making fronterizo tourism less intimidating and more rewarding.

    The place is surprisingly peaceable, nothing at all like the bad press it receives.

  3. el codo says:

    To “Nish Dave”
    I wish I could give you better advice but one of the better quips I have ever heard came from Steve Rogers “There Are As Many Bad Doctors In Mexico As There Are In The United States”.

    I would incorporate the following as either an alternative to or the starting poing of a plan “of attack”

    Cancun should have a very good 2nd tier IMSS hospital. Grab a bi lingual taxiista and ask him to help you translate and then head for the major IMSS facility in Cancun. Objective: seek a referal. There just may be a specialist for your particular issue or a doctor that is very familiar with whom are really adept at diagnosis and treatment. Many IMSS doctors have practices on the side. The taxi driver can explain all this to a curious IMSS receptionist (that you seek a referral not treatment at the IMSS facility).

    Fellow Traveler Tip: I have a very pesky problem with my heart. Touchy issue especially for diagnosis and Rx treatment. I have run into major issues with USA cardiologist’s treatment protocol and unfortunately this was with the use of English on an advanced level. This has served to complicate somewhat my remaining in Mexico for years at a time but by being clever and very patient (is that where the word comes from?) I have managed to address my issues and concerns.

    I use the internet, boy do I ever use the internet to research my particular health issues. I have found forums sponsored by the MAYO CLINIC to be particularly useful. I feel my issues to be of sufficient importance to quell feelings of self-abuse and tired-butt after spending hours and hours in a chair seeking online information that I consider to be useful. Mine is a never-ending quest for knowledge; stuff to look for when dealing with (my) specialist where ever it may be. To give you an example a noted medical center cardiologist prescribed a medication by the generic name of AMIODARONE for me. I did online research and discovered that this is one dangerous medication. The cardiologist RX’d me on a daily maintenance dose. After seeing the horror reports of side effects I took my time and decided that perhaps I did not need to have a maintenance dose but reserve the Rx for incident treatments. Of course, I needed to determine that my condition was not life-threatening, and that I wasn’t trying to play Doctor Dolittle with my life, bu ommitting medication as prescribed by my doctor. This is purely a personal choice.

    CONCLUSION: I wouldn’t just rush to the first hospital no matter how well recommended and then take their proscription as gospel. I would feel much better if I could obtain two other 2nd opinions, to the total satisfaction that my communication skills allowed me near one hundred percent surety of the complexities of an involved discussion of the issue with a Mexican specialist or multiples.

    Sorry to be so quibbling, but my body unlike a car fender, I can’t buy a new one or get a rebuilt anything over the counter. I look once, twice and perhaps five times before I would leap.

  4. el codo says:

    Nish Dave, I couldn’t resist so I am including the following PS as an example or my doing online research. Your issues are for physical treatment, mine are for chemical but the example shown here can be interpeted as being universal – it came from extensive online research on Amiodarone.

    So called ‘acute onset atrial fibrillation’, defined by the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (NASPE) in 2003, responds well to short duration treatment with amiodarone. This has been demonstrated in seventeen randomised controlled trials, of which five included a placebo arm. The incidence of severe side effects in this group is low.

    Research, research, research, your particular issue and have ready not only a list of questions for a real feel for what you are dealing with if even on an elemental level.

    I Hope This Helps You!

  5. Laurie Bishinski says:

    Is there a way to check out a doctor’s record in Mexico, credentials, record, etc. like there is in the U.S.? Thanks

  6. Bruce says:

    To “Nish Dave”
    I wish I could give you better advice but one of the better quips I have ever heard came from Steve Rogers “There Are As Many Bad Doctors In Mexico As There Are In The United States”.

    I would incorporate the following as either an alternative to or the starting poing of a plan “of attack”

    Cancun should have a very good 2nd tier IMSS hospital. Grab a bi lingual taxiista and ask him to help you translate and then head for the major IMSS facility in Cancun. Objective: seek a referal. There just may be a specialist for your particular issue or a doctor that is very familiar with whom are really adept at diagnosis and treatment. Many IMSS doctors have practices on the side. The taxi driver can explain all this to a curious IMSS receptionist (that you seek a referral not treatment at the IMSS facility).

    Fellow Traveler Tip: I have a very pesky problem with my heart. Touchy issue especially for diagnosis and Rx treatment. I have run into major issues with USA cardiologist’s treatment protocol and unfortunately this was with the use of English on an advanced level. This has served to complicate somewhat my remaining in Mexico for years at a time but by being clever and very patient (is that where the word comes from?) I have managed to address my issues and concerns.

    I use the internet, boy do I ever use the internet to research my particular health issues. I have found forums sponsored by the MAYO CLINIC to be particularly useful. I feel my issues to be of sufficient importance to quell feelings of self-abuse and tired-butt after spending hours and hours in a chair seeking online information that I consider to be useful. Mine is a never-ending quest for knowledge; stuff to look for when dealing with (my) specialist where ever it may be. To give you an example a noted medical center cardiologist prescribed a medication by the generic name of AMIODARONE for me. I did online research and discovered that this is one dangerous medication. The cardiologist RX’d me on a daily maintenance dose. After seeing the horror reports of side effects I took my time and decided that perhaps I did not need to have a maintenance dose but reserve the Rx for incident treatments. Of course, I needed to determine that my condition was not life-threatening, and that I wasn’t trying to play Doctor Dolittle with my life, bu ommitting medication as prescribed by my doctor. This is purely a personal choice.

    CONCLUSION: I wouldn’t just rush to the first hospital no matter how well recommended and then take their proscription as gospel. I would feel much better if I could obtain two other 2nd opinions, to the total satisfaction that my communication skills allowed me near one hundred percent surety of the complexities of an involved discussion of the issue with a Mexican specialist or multiples.

    Sorry to be so quibbling, but my body unlike a car fender, I can’t buy a new one or get a rebuilt anything over the counter. I look once, twice and perhaps five times before I would leap.

  7. Funny you should call it “quibbling”, Bruce. Here on the blog The Real Tijuana the editors have been discussing the same issues for several months now. We all want to feature our own favorite doctors and dentists; we all want to tell our own horror stories. Some of us have already used the word “quibbling” in regard to our discussions. What we’ve discovered is that some patients respond well to some doctors and not to others and that some doctors respond well to some patients but not others. It’s not really quibbling, it’s just human nature.

    At one end of the spectrum there are patients that every doctor wants and doctors that every patient wants. At the other end of the spectrum, there are … well, you know, the opposite. Most of us show up in the middle somewhere.

    In every country of the world it’s the same. Your treatment will always be more effective when you’re in the hands of a doctor you trust. Other people can make recommendations but only the patient can make the commitment.

    P.S. Since our last contribution to this thread, we have encountered two(!) new Dr Simis along the tourist walk, one at the entrance (due south of the McDonalds) and the other on the western side of Revolución (perhaps between Third and Fourth?). We haven’t had the time to interview them as yet but there’s a good chance, based on their locations, that their doctors are able to consult in English.

    One of the truisms of Mexico is that, as soon as you say something doesn’t exist, it does and, as soon as you say something does exist, it doesn’t. That’s magical realism for you.

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