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How Cancun Tourists Can Protect Themselves From Growing Problem Of Fake Pill Sales

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A worrying situation has dominated the headlines of Spanish-language news outlets across Mexico in the past few weeks.

It has been reported that the number of counterfeit, cloned, and expired pharmaceuticals being sold over the counter at pharmacies, including in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean, has doubled since the pandemic.

There are estimations now that as much as 10% of pharmaceuticals sold now fall into these categories, which will no doubt cause huge worry to travelers who find themselves in a position where they need medication in the country.

How Cancun Tourists Can Protect Themselves From Growing Problem Of Fake Pill Sales

The Main Culprits

The first step for travelers to protect themselves is to be educated on which pharmaceuticals are the most common culprits in this worrying practice.

Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, anti-diarrhea medication, and antacids have so far been identified as the most common medications to be abused in this way.

The purchase of any of these categories of pharmaceuticals should be done with an extra layer of suspicion by travelers.

Medication and mexican pesos on a table

Travel With, Don’t Purchase

The promise of cheaper medication in Mexico can be tempting to travelers, but with these latest developments, it’s obvious that the safety of that course of action has been called into question.

Thankfully, Mexico is extremely accommodating to Americans who travel with medication. All that is required, no matter the active ingredient according to the Mexican government website, is a prescription or letter from a GP confirming the medication as a legitimate need during the trip to Mexico.

An extra step is the requirement to declare the medication upon arrival, which is a very simple and normally trouble-free process.

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immigration line at cancun airport

After getting through the immigration point in the airport, travelers will notice Guardia Nacional (national guard) officers.

Simply approach one of these officers and state that you have medication you need to declare, they will have a quick look at the letter/prescriptions from your doctor, then confirm it matches the medication you have traveled with.

That is the only official requirement travelers must meet to travel to Mexico from the United States with their medication.

International arrivals sign in cancun airport

Stick To Trusted Chains

Mexico is home to several large and well-respected pharmacy chains. These outlets are run with very high standards and are a trustworthy choice for travelers if a trip to the pharmacy can’t be avoided.

The following are 3 of the biggest and most trusted pharmacy chains in Mexico that are easily found in Cancun:

  • Farmacias Similares.
  • Farmacias del Ahorro.
  • Farmacias Guadalajara.

Most of the complaints of counterfeit, cloned, or expired medication in Mexico originate from small, independent pharmacy stores and websites.

While the larger chains will be slightly more expensive, it’s a cost worth accepting to protect your health.

a farmacia guadalajara sign

Getting A Prescription In Cancun

While traveling with medication is a good defense from this issue, that doesn’t help those who find themselves in a new medical situation while on vacation and require appropriate pharmaceuticals.

Getting a prescription in Cancun isn’t a huge mountain to climb. For travelers staying in a resort that has an on-call doctor, which includes the majority of all-inclusive resorts, the first step is visiting the resort doctor for a short consultation.

A doctor giving travelers a consultation

These resort doctors aren’t free, and the consultation will require payment, but they are able to diagnose simple conditions and write prescriptions. And if needed, they can also give travelers a referral to a local hospital for further consultations/treatment.

If a traveler is staying in a resort without a doctor, then simply visit one of the many clinics dotted throughout the destination to receive a consultation.

There are also many tourism-focused hospitals throughout Cancun, and due to the multi-national population of Cancun, the majority of doctors here are perfectly comfortable giving consultations in English.

A male doctor giving a consultation

If In Doubt, Report

If you receive medication you believe to be not genuine, it’s important to report your findings to help protect your fellow travelers from a dangerous situation.

Firstly, make a report to the local police. It is also advised to report to the PROFECO which is the Mexican consumer rights watchdog, they can be contacted in the following ways:

Alternatively, travelers can also contact the U.S. embassy in Mexico for assistance:

  • From Mexico:  (+52) 55 8526 2561
  • From the United States:  +1-844-528-6611
  • Department of State – Consular Affairs:  +1-888-407-4747 or +1-202-501-4444

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