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Old February 12th, 2009, 01:29 PM
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Default Has anybody brought prescription medicine from Mexico back?

My wife and I are going on a cruise to Ensenada aboard the Carnival Elation and we would like to bring some medicine back from Mexico.

While I understand that items like asthma medicine and Retin-A are generally permitted as long as they are claimed to customs and for personal use (up to 50 doses with or without prescription), my wife needs to bring back some strong pain-killers.

She has fibromyalgia and from time to time she has an attack that we need to go to the ER for. Our co-pay is $500 and they typically just give her a few Demerol or Morphine tablets and send us on our way. If we could just bring back a few of those we would save hundreds of dollars a year.

What is the process of bringing back medication and what does customs go through? Is each bag X-rayed or is it random?

Thanks!
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Old February 12th, 2009, 02:32 PM
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It is very difficult to bring narcotics back from Mexico if you intend to do it legally, ie telling customs that you are bringing them. I have a form of lateral sclerosis and have many medications. For a time my drug coverage would not pay for a drug called Lyrica and it was setting me back about $600 per month, I also use a pain patch called Fentanyl. While in Mexico, I bought Lyrica and Fentanyl, when I arrived at customs with my documents from my doctor and my valid prescription they let me keep the Lyrica but they took the Fentanyl stating we could not purchase narcotics, even presciption ones in Mexico unless we had seen a Mexican doctor and had a mexican prescription as the result of emergency treatment. While I was able to save $1200 on a three month supply, I don't know if I'd recommend buying meds in Mexico.

To my knowledge bags are xrayed when they leave the ship and drug dogs do their sniff test but I don't know if they'd find it 100% of the time, I elected to do the legal thing and just claim it and take my chances, I was either going to be out $600 or save $1200. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do it again, that was a pretty nerve racking day.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 02:35 PM
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As per the US customs web site, you can't bring back controlled substances unless you have a valid Mexican Dr's prescription (up to 50 doses in original packaging for personal use).

I plan to see a doctor for the prescription when I am down there.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc730
As per the US customs web site, you can't bring back controlled substances unless you have a valid Mexican Dr's prescription (up to 50 doses in original packaging for personal use).

I plan to see a doctor for the prescription when I am down there.
That solves that problem for you. As a Canadian I have two borders to cross and for me it just isn't worth the effort and the stress. 50 doses if you are using something infrequently will be a huge financial relief for you and your wife. For me 50 doses at sometimes 3-4 doses a day isn't really worth it but our situations are different.

Good luck though, I'm sure it would be nice to have relief from that $500 co-pay even just a couple of times. The Canadian system is far from perfect but it is nice not to have to pay to see a doctor in the ER.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 03:26 PM
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Another important issue no one raised is the problem of counterfiet drugs.
The people who make phoney drugs are very good at making them look like the real things. You have no way to know what you are getting in Mexico. Buyer beware....
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Old February 12th, 2009, 03:51 PM
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Conway Scott, excellent point. While I didn't mention it, we bought from a pharmacy in a big city, not from the flea markets that you frequently see in the border towns. We did see a lot of people buying at the markets and raving about the prices being so much better even than the big mexican pharmacies, but I was careful. My life depends on proper medications. Like I said, I did it, but I probably wouldn't try it again.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:03 PM
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Thanks for your help and advice everyone.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:03 PM
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I have fibromyalgia, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, plus arthritis and while I would truly love to reduce my medication costs, the last thing I would buy in a 3rd world country is narcotic pain meds. While most of their drugs are probably fine, the reason some med's are called controlled substances is because not only does the gov't want the dispensation of them controlled, but also the process of manufacturing them. A messed up batch of morphine can kill you. Don't risk it, please.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:10 PM
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Thank you for your concern but I imagine a messed up batch of just about anything can kill you!

I have a list of items I am looking to buy and manufacturers that I trust. I realize there are counterfit medications sold but narcotic medication is fairly cheap and easily obtained in the first place. The profit margin to counterfit this medication is pretty nominal unless dealing in large sales. As I'm not planning to buy a "milk-jug of codeine" so I think I will be OK.

I'm also planning on having our doctor look at the packaging and medication and comparing it to medication made by the same manufacturer prior to taking it.

Again, thank you for your concern.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:23 PM
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First of all, YOU do not need to go to the ER for something that is not life threating, go to a DR or walk in clinic for a much lower co-pay.

If it is illegal to bring in controlled substances, do not bring them back. It is not worth it. Or risk going to jail.

Do you speak spanish? If not might be tough to find a Dr that's is willing to dispense the RX's and speaks english.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:28 PM
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As long as what you are buying is legal in the United States, and you declare it, I don't believe you run the risk of legal trouble.

My concern is spending money on medication and then having to lose it.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc730
As long as what you are buying is legal in the United States, and you declare it, I don't believe you run the risk of legal trouble.

My concern is spending money on medication and then having to lose it.
I completely agree and I think that you will do the right thing and have a plan in place to ensure that you get what you need. The reality is that unless people are burdened by the costs of health care it is sometimes difficult to understand why people go through the extra efforts to find a cheaper way to do it. I never believed that you were attempting anything illicit or that you would not be diligent in your approach. I wish you the best in finding what you need, but it looks like you're doing the right thing in doing the research first, I only offered my experience because you threw it out there : )

BTW, I think many folks forget just how many americans make regular trips to Canada to buy medications too. Medications take up such a huge part of people's disposable incomes and especially with the economy in the shape that it is in in North America. From experience I respect that.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for the nice words.

I have done a lot of due diligence and I think I have my facts straight. I guess I was hoping someone here had successfully brought back controlled medication and could tell me what I might be forgetting.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 05:15 PM
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Quote:
Posted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:28 pm Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As long as what you are buying is legal in the United States, and you declare it, I don't believe you run the risk of legal trouble.

My concern is spending money on medication and then having to lose it.
If it is legal why would you worry about losing it?
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Old February 12th, 2009, 05:21 PM
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Because sometimes over-zealous customs officials aren't aware of the law. I was wondering if anybody had any trouble with it.

21 CFR Part 1301
[Docket No. DEA-192F] RIN 1117-AA56

SUMMARY: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is amending its regulations to expressly incorporate the restrictions on personal use importation imposed by Congress in 1998 and to expand upon those restrictions to curtail the diversion that has continued even after the 1998 congressional amendment. Specifically, DEA is limiting to 50 dosage units the total amount of controlled substances that a United States resident may bring into the United States for legitimate personal medical use when returning from travel abroad at any location and by any means. This regulation will help prevent importation of controlled substances for unlawful use while still accommodating travelers who have a legitimate medical need for controlled substances during their journey.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 09:12 PM
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Yes, you have to decalre them if you buy them, but no one says you can't be sneaky. If you put the pills in say a Tylenol, Aspirin, Advin, etc bottle, how will they know it is NOT Advil, Tylenol, Aspirin or not.

I wouldn't want to buy drugs from a Mexican pharmacy because you don't know if they are the correct dose or less, or worse, something else altogether.

I packed my glucosamine, and other supplements in ziplock bags. I was not questioned as to what they were. They were in my suitcase, so if a buttle of over-the-counter pain reliever is in a suitcase who is to say they will open the bottle and see that it is Tylenol or not--it take forever to get all bags on the plane if they did!
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Old February 12th, 2009, 09:58 PM
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I have bought Meds in Cozumel a few times and never had a problem.
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Old February 12th, 2009, 11:48 PM
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i have bought meds a couple of times in belize. the drugstore is owned by a lady who moved there from the states nice people.
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Old February 13th, 2009, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by misguidedangel
Yes, you have to decalre them if you buy them, but no one says you can't be sneaky. If you put the pills in say a Tylenol, Aspirin, Advin, etc bottle, how will they know it is NOT Advil, Tylenol, Aspirin or not.

I wouldn't want to buy drugs from a Mexican pharmacy because you don't know if they are the correct dose or less, or worse, something else altogether.

I packed my glucosamine, and other supplements in ziplock bags. I was not questioned as to what they were. They were in my suitcase, so if a buttle of over-the-counter pain reliever is in a suitcase who is to say they will open the bottle and see that it is Tylenol or not--it take forever to get all bags on the plane if they did!
Putting a narcotic in a bottle that was originally intended for Tylenol, is not being sneaky it's breaking the law.

I'm pretty sure US customs laws are similar but I know the Canadian law and it is clear, all prescription drugs must be in their original containers, not negotiable. Not only can you have it seized but you can be charged. My freedom to cross the borders of countries is too important to take the risk of doing anything illegal.
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Old February 13th, 2009, 10:05 AM
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I wouldn't bother. You never know if it's the real thing. We were in Cozumel, though, and walked into a drug store and found it pretty entertaining to see what is sold as over the counter medicine. Crazy.
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Old February 13th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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Cruise Queen, did you declare them? What medication was it?
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Old February 13th, 2009, 02:57 PM
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Just FYI, one time my hubby was injured while in Mexico. Tried going to a pharmacy, who said we had to have a presription, so tried a doctor. But so many tourists have done this as a scam that they have become very cynical. Wouldn't even talk to us.
On our last trip, in November, I needed a topical ointment for pain. These are not narcotic. Pharmacy tried to tell me they didn't sell what I wanted. So, I wandered up and down aisles until I saw it sitting out. I got a tad cranky with the guy, explaining that I was not drug shopping, just needed the salve.
Oh well.
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Old February 13th, 2009, 08:18 PM
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I said if you wanted to be sneaky, you could try to put it in another bottle. I didn't say I would do it. I prefer NOT to use perscription drugs at all.

As for pharmacies in Mexico, Belize, etc, I really would worry about the drug itself. You never know if the drug is the real thing, a knock off with less potency, or a placebo. I think that getting the drugs at home from a trusted/reliable source is a better option....

I would worry aobut going to a doctor in one of the port town/city. I would think they would want to take you for a dumb tourist and charge you an arm and a leg!
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Old February 13th, 2009, 11:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc730
Cruise Queen, did you declare them? What medication was it?
I bring back a bottle of Amoxicillion (sp?) I just put it in the suitcase.

In fact when I'm in Cozumel next week I think I'll hit Senor Frogs first and then the Pharmacy.

I heard there is a great facial retinol-A treatment creme in Mexico and does wonders for lines and wrinkles. Botox in a bottle from Mexico!
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Old February 14th, 2009, 05:40 PM
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You are talking about smuggling drugs - Wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole - This could be very serious if you do something that is even technically illegal.

I suggest if you are serious consult an attorney - Much better than a customs border issue.
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Old February 18th, 2009, 11:25 AM
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I write this as a retired federal official that worked a lifetime along the Mexican border. I promis you---brining is illegal drugs will get you caught if not today then tomorow. No one gets away with it---trust me---the agents are far better trained than any of us.While you may save a little money the quailty of the drugs you recieive in Mexico may be far less than what you have recieved at your local pharmacy. So now youa re faced with anoter issue---will taking those drugs harm or even kill me? Were those drugs made in an "outhouse" or "dirty bathtub"?Bringing those drugs back into the US is just not a very good idea. Putting them in a Tylanol bottle, "give me a break". The custom and immigration staff along the borders are well trained and know far more tricks about the trade than you and I. In fact the dogs are smarter than many of the people whose bags they search. Spending time in a jail in either Mexico or along the US border is not something you want to spoil your vacation or trip. Please----anyone reading this---don't do it!!!!The FEDS have enough to do without one becoming their guest.
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Old February 18th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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I'm not talking about smuggling drugs.

I'm asking about declaring prescription medicine purchased legally in Mexico under a doctor's supervision and declaring them at customs as the US Customs "Know Before You Go" advises is legal if the quantity is under 50, the drugs have been purchased legally, and they are in their sealed original containers.

I'm not attempting to do anything illegal, I was writing beacuase I wanted to know if the Customs agents tend to be over-zealous and over-step the parameters of the law.
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Old February 18th, 2009, 01:23 PM
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Old February 18th, 2009, 02:25 PM
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This whole issue now falls under Homeland Security. Not sure why, since FDA and customs should be adequate, but I'm not in charge! And, Homeland has a different set of rules.
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