So What’s The Real Skinny On All These Pharmacies?

For starters, pay attention to what area you shop
BY: GREG SMOLARZ

They are colorful, have witty slogans, and are found on every corner in Mexico. They are pharmacies selling cheap, over the counter, prescription medicine. Or at least, that’s what they claim. But how cheap are they? And what can you find there? Are the prices all the same? How is the service? Do they speak English? Well, look no further because I have answers.

To conduct my research I picked five , popular medications; Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Crestor, and Tramadol, and visited 3 different local pharmacies in various parts of Ensenada. My goal was to see if these medications were available at all pharmacies, and how much each cost. It was quite the adventure and I learned a lot about dealing with farmacias in Mexico.

My first stop was right smack dab in the middle of the tourist area on the corner of 1st and Riveroll at the American Pharmacy. You can’t miss this place because of the gigantic, super-hero Viagra pill plastered all over the front of the place in several  areas. I was dealing with a very nice man named Rene. I inquired about the prices of the medicines in increments of 10, but they only sold these in generics of varying bundles. The prices and bundles are; 100 tablets of 10 mg Lipitor cost $40, 40 tablets of 20 mg Nexium costs $45, 28 tablets of 75 mg Plavix costs $49, 15 tablets of 10 mg Crestor costs $27.25, and 100 tablets of 100 mg Tramadol costs $40.

The service at the American Pharmacy was top notch. Rene was friendly, able to give me all the help I needed, and he spoke enough English to carry a conversation. As I was leaving, Rene said, “When you return I give you good price.” It was a pleasant experience.

My second stop was interesting. Lupe, the guy behind the counter, was very busy helping customers when I walked in the Baja Pharmacy, which is right next to the Casa Del Sol Hotel on First Street. Lupe seemed to have little time to help and he was not checking the packages for the prices, it was almost like he was pulling the prices out of thin air, which also means I was unable to get milligrams on the medications. But here is what he told me; 10 tablets of Lipitor costs $2.50, 14 tablets of Nexium costs $40, 14 tablets of Plavix costs $7, 100 tablets of Tramadol costs $20, and he said they did not carry Crestor but he quoted me 30 tablets for $50 anyway. The service here was well below average. I just didn’t feel like my inquiries were important, and I questioned the validity of the answers I was receiving.

For my final stop, I chose a pharmacy away from the tourist zone to see how it would compare. It was a way better experience at the Farmacia Del Sol on Reforma, next to the Soriana, I say that because it reminded more of what I am used to seeing at pharmacies in the U.S. Consuelo, the woman who was helping me, was very professional and helpful. All prices were quoted in pesos, so I am going to use today’s exchange rate of 17.78 MXN. 20 tablets of 10 mg Lipitor costs $24.37, 14 tablets of 20 mg Nexium costs $30.74, 14 tablets of 75 mg Plavix costs $39.77, 30 tablets of 10 mg Crestor costs $39.14, and 10 tablets of 100 mg Tramadol costs $11.13. The service at Del Sol was friendly. Upon entering the store I was guided to the back by a cashier. The set up was similar to what you would see in the United States, which was great to see after my two previous experiences. No English was spoken, but Consuelo was very helpful.

My overall recommendation would be to purchase medications at pharmacies away from the tourist area at places like to Farmacia Del Sol. It was professional and I didn’t question its legitimacy nearly as much. The experience of meeting all the people was cool,. but at the pharmacies in the tourist area the vibe I got was more than a little shady.