As of the first of April, 2010, Mexico has begun to crack down on the purchase of antibiotics and other drugs without a doctor's prescription.
While Mexican pharmacies have always required the presentation of a prescription to get certain drugs, like Vicodin or morphine, the new procedures will require patients to provide a valid prescription from a Mexican doctor (not a foreign doctor!) for antibiotics as well, a law that has largely been ignored for decades.
The Health Department says the plan is aimed at preventing self-medication and the growing problem of drug-resistant infections.
Details of the plan are sketchy, but local media reported the program will carry a threat of closure for pharmacies that violate the rule.
Counter clerks at Mexican pharmacies have long provided antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline on demand, and US citizens along the borders are used to crossing the border to buy such drugs with no questions asked. Pharmacies are ubiquitous in border towns because of this, and they make considerable money from that trade.
Among Mexicans, it has been normal for a sick person to go to a pharmacy, tell the pharmacist what the symtoms were and the pharmacist would sell the person what he thought was the proper antibiotic. In addition, many times people know from experience what their problem is and what drugs were previously prescribed to cure it; they seek to avoid the time and money incurred by a visit to a doctor by simply picking up the appropriate drug directly through the pharmacy. That kind of informal 'doctoring' is common throughout the country.
I don't know if this crackdown is an isolated measure or if Mexico’s government plans to increase its overall regulation of legal prescription drugs. At any rate, the new rules are now in effect and you should be aware of them and act accordingly. If someone wanted to make an example of you (yeah, not likely but you never know), you should also be aware that there are some pretty severe consequences for not following the law.
U.S. consulate officials have said that sometimes pharmacies alert police when someone buys drugs without a legal prescription. The punishment for the crime can be up to 15 years in jail.
That's not a place you want to be!