Importing medicines not forbidden but highly regulated
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
In October, La Conexión, one of the commercial courier and mail services in San Miguel, stopped importing medicines from the US to Mexico for its clients in San Miguel because it lacked federal permits. Currently, some expats have been thinking of leaving the country because they cannot get their medications here. The importation of medicines is authorized by the COFEPRIS (Federal Commission for the Protection of Sanitary Risks), and requirements must be fulfilled before importing or sending drugs from other countries to Mexico.
Ed Clancy, the US consul in San Miguel de Allende, said that the importation of drugs to Mexico has always been illegal without a permit issued by the Secretaría de Salud (Federal Health Department). He commented that the commercial courier that was importing medicines stopped doing it and for that reason its clients are looking for information on how to import their medicines themselves. The consular agent said, “The only way to import them is to have a permit from the SS,” adding that the procedure to obtain the permit is very difficult and costly. Clancy commented that when the problem emerged in San Miguel he called the Guanajuato Health Department and personnel from that office told him that they did not know anyone who had finished the procedure because it is very complicated.
Susan Sargeant, owner of La Conexión, said that she wants to work under the Mexican regulations and for that reason she stopped importing medicines and, as the US consul suggested, she said that the best way to import medicine is by going to the US and bringing them back on one’s own. In order to help her clients, Sargeant wrote a document that states that “the best way for you to bring your prescriptions/supplements into Mexico is in your luggage. You can prove beyond a doubt that it is your medicine, that the product is for your personal use and you are not a commercial courier.” According to the document, Sargeant understands that the law “applies to the transportation of health products by a commercial courier or a third party over an international border, but not to individuals bringing their own products in for personal use.” She also said that “the Health Department requires a permit to be issued to the owner of the prescription drug each time that the prescription is brought into Mexico by a commercial courier.”
Francisco Cano, who has worked for La Conexión for many years, said that once he and a client from La Conexión started the proceedings to get a permit from the COFEPRIS for importing clients’ medications, but after they had sent the documents the COFEPRIS informed them that the information on the forms was incomplete. Cano said that the missing information had to do specifically with the ingredients in the medication, but this information is nearly impossible to get unless you have a very good contact at the laboratory where the medication is produced or with the distributor. Despite the complicated procedures, Cano is always willing to help with filling out the forms if someone needs it. According to him, the forms must be sent to the COFEPRIS through the Mexican postal service and it is not worthwhile to go personally to the COFEPRIS offices in Mexico City because if any information is lacking or incorrect on the forms the visit would be a waste of time.
More information can be provided at the US consular office at Plaza Luciérnaga (in front of the Nail Lounge) from Monday through Thursday from 9am to 1pm. Also, you can get information at La Conexión, at calle Aldama 3. To download and print the forms go to www.cofepris.gob.mx, Inicio, then Trámites y servicios and finally go to Importación de productos para consumo personal. Recently BajíoGo has started organizing trips to Laredo, Texas, where expats can buy their medicines and bring them back to San Miguel themselves.