What’s The Deal On Drugs Around Here?

It’s complicated, better listen up

Almost any drug sold in the United States is readily available in Mexico, whether it requires here, or is sold over the counter. In many cases, the drug may be marketed under a different name, i.e., “acetaminophen” becomes “Paracetamol” in Mexico, and “Benadryl” becomes “Difenhidramina.” You tell them what you want and if the drug isnt called that here, they look it up and can usually find the equivilent drug under a different name. Another problem is, they might not recognize how you are pronouncing it. For instance Retin A becomes Reteen Ahh. It’s like the Einstiens at McDonald’s can’t figure out what you’re ordering when you say egg McMuffin until you pronounce it egg McMoofin. If you have a problem, write it out for them, they will recognize it then.

          OK, gotta focus on drugs, not food.

To be sure the consumer is purchasing a pharmaceutical equivalent to the one in the States, we would logically patronize the pharmacies located within the confines of the big familiar chain outlets such as Costco, WalMart, Soriana or Calimax. However, even local pharmacies, like Cosmo Farmacia and Discount Farmacia, have been regulated, (and therefore legitimized), by the federal government since the late 1980´s, when then newly-elected President Ortega decided to end the widely-held assumption that Mexico was the “candy store” for prescription drug abusers who came to Mexico to obtain mood altering substances heavily regulated elsewhere.

          Hence, any outlet that hangs a “Farmacia” shingle over its door is required to follow strict guidelines regulating the distribution of drugs known to be addictive (Xanex), narcotic (Percodan), specifically manufactured to target specific diseases or conditions (insulin, cumodin, psyche meds, etc.), or in any way dangerous if not used properly. Any pharmacist violating this trust risks fines, incarceration and/or permanent loss of license to practice. Ha ha ha. In reality the person behind the counter has zero expertise in drugs, and is merely a shop clerk lucky to make $700 US per month. That phramacy certificate hanging on the wall? The owner of the drug store, also not usually trained in pharmacy stuff, just pays so much a month to rent that certificate from a real pharmacist. The name on that document is legit, and that person might step on the property once or twice a month.

          The pharmacies on Lopez Mateo  in Ensenada, (or First Street, i.e., Primero),  cater to tourists from the cruise ships who are generally looking for Viagara or other popular sport drugs, and these outlets are usually very high priced. Local pharmacies, (Cosmo and Discount, for example) are patronized by locals and expats because of their comprehensive selection, personalized service, and better prices.

          Since the quality of the products dispensed is, for the most part, consistent throughout the market, (always check for proper dosage, side-effects and expiration date), what about the cost? Where are the best deals to be found? Earlier this year, we published the results of a price comparison analysis of most of the popular pharmaceutical outlets (Vol.2 Ed.24 January 25th, 2016).

          In this issue, our attention will be focused on Similares, the chain with the cute mascot drumming up business on the sidewalk out front. Out of the gate, the Similares have an irresistible marketing tactic: 25% discount on purchases made in all their outlets on every Monday of every week, all year long! Also, they are all over the place, and, in some cases, open 24 hours a day.

          Similares specialize in providing generic equivalents for brand-name drugs. Regular pharmacies may offer these alternatives as well, but with Similares generics are the rule, not the exception. Thus you can  assume that Similares will provide a significant cost saving.

          Another advantage of Similares is their buying power ensures the best possible price and product reliability (as well as freshness, due to fast turnover). Some generics are manufactured in, and distributed by, unregulated companies in India and China, and obviously the integrity of their products is questionable, and may, in fact, be counterfit. The Similares all receive their products from reliable manufacturers and are very consistent.

          There are some very reliable and reasonably priced local pharmacies in Ensenada that are worthy of note:

 Cosmo, which has two locations locally, (one is three blocks off Reforma on Blvd. Ramirez, past the huge Telnor building, and the other is on Calle Novena between Ave. Ryerson and Ave. Moctezuma). Cosmo is famous for always having the drug you need in stock and at a very reasonable price. They are a central clearing house and provide many smaller pharmacies with their products. Also, they offer free delivery.

Discount Pharmacy, located in Zona Centro, (at the corner of 7th and Ruiz), is also a high-volume, well-stocked, service-oriented local pharmacy that offers delivery.

Similares have one other advantage that distinguishes them from all other pharmacies: Many of them have doctors on site, accepting walk-in patients on a first-come, first-served basis. The standard fee for a consultation is 50 pesos (around $3.00 USD), and the checkup will provide you with the prescription you need to address your malady; you can pick it up on your way out, making for one-stop shopping! Your prescription given you be your doctor in the United States is not good here, so show it to “Dr. Simi” and he will churn out a legitimate Mexican prescription matching that one.

Here´s the bottom line: Chain store pharmacies are consistent in quality and generally competitive in price; local pharmacies, such as Cosmo and Discount, are reliable and provide personalized services such as free delivery; Be careful of pharmacies near the tourist areas, many of them tend to be very hight priced. Similares provide consultations as well as prescription alternatives at very low prices, and are to be found almost anywhere in the city.

There are well over 200 pharmacies in Ensenada. The number of Similares is hard to ascertain, because only the outlets with land lines are listed in Telnor´s yellow pages. One thing is for sure: You won´t have any problem finding one! Look for a characture of Dr. Simi.