Can You Trust the Generic Drugs in Mexico?

Source: istockphoto

During a recent post about ways to save money on medications in Mexico, I included a tip that the largest generic pharmacy chain in Mexico, Farmacias Similares, offered a 25% off everything special on Mondays.

Almost immediately, readers started posting comments with warnings that the products sold by Farmacias Similares were inferior and that the strength of the medications were lower. The negative comments prompted me to temporarily pull the article while I investigated the matter further.

After some extensive research, I learned that there was some validity to their concerns — at least prior to 2010. That year, everything changed.

Game Changer

Prior to 2010 there were actually three classifications of drugs: de patente – patent or name brand version; 2) generíco intercambiable – generic but tested to be 100% interchangeable with the name brand version; and 3) similares -drug containing the same ingredients as the patent version but lacking the testing for bioequivalence.

Many of the drugs sold by the pharmaceutical chain Farmacias Similares prior to the change fell into the third category. That’s the primary reason why some people were critical of the quality of their products.

In 2004, there was a significant reform to the health law (Ley General de Salud) requiring all of the medications sold in Mexico to pass rigorous testing for bioequivalence beginning in 2010. In layman’s terms, they were eliminating the third category. This was great news for the consumer and it greatly increased people’s trust in generic medications.

To comply with the new law, Farmacias Similares conducted testing on all of their medications at a cost of between $50,000 – $90,000 USD each. The generic medications that the chain now sells have been tested and approved for quality, dosage and bioequivalence.

Don’t Take my Word for It

The government agency that oversees the medication registry and maintains compliance is the Comisíon Federal para la Protección Contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS). I contacted them last week to confirm the information in this post.

I spoke with a very friendly and helpful representative who confirmed that all of the generic medications sold in Mexico have been thoroughly tested to ensure that they are the equivalent of the name brand version.

She added that it doesn’t matter if I buy the medication in Farmacias Similares, Farmacias del Ahorro or Walmart, it’s going to be the same in terms of ingredients and effectiveness. She said that the only difference will be in appearance (i.e. color, shape and packaging).

Let’s Wrap This Up

There are common and persistent misconceptions when it comes to generic drugs sold in Mexico. Both the Comisíon Federal para la Protección Contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS) and the Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (PROFECO) have been working to dispel these misconceptions by educating the public through social media and other outlets.

I commend Mexico for creating both the legislation and the governmental infrastructure necessary to ensure that people can trust the generic drugs sold in Mexico. In doing so, they’ve found a way to reduce the cost of health care for their citizens, as well as any expats who call this home.

If you have any additional questions about medications sold in Mexico, you should contact COFEPRIS.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul

Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget.

In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul’s articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

36 Comments on "Can You Trust the Generic Drugs in Mexico?"

  1. Thank you Paul for checking into this for everyone. So far we haven’t had any problems with any of the drugs we take. I did take my high blood pressure medicine back to the US with me and my Dr. said he hadn’t seen that brand in years. He called it a little sister to the one I should be taking. We shall see what happens when I get that brand refilled here.

  2. Thank you so much for doing the research and posting this info.

  3. Fabulous Post and well-worth the wait for it!!! As someone who’s used these Farmacias often, I’m grateful for them and the Monday discounts.And now I’m much more confident about the quality and the effectiveness of what I buy there. Thanks for your thorough investigation of this important subject.

  4. Thank you for your research. I will share this with my doctor who warns against the generics. I will be very interested in his response.

  5. Thank you. I really appreciate your blog, so informative and helpful.

  6. Thank you so much for researching this! It is interesting that even some doctors do not seem to be up to date on this. I guess it takes a while for beliefs based on old facts to be changed. It is even still out there on the Internet. I did not have the Spanish or research skills to get to the bottom of this. Again, many thanks. It will save a lot of money!

  7. Another excellent and informative article

  8. Every year for years we have been purchasing a year’s supply of omeprazole (Prilosec) at the pharmacy at our resort. The generic company is Collins Alboz – it has been a good product with the same results as generic U.S. at the cost of about 5 cents a day. We’re sold on it.

  9. Well I’m not sure this really answered my concerns with the previous post which were with Farmacia Similares and NOT with generics.. I never said a word against generics. My doctors (Endocrinologist, Gastroenterologist, Gynecologist, Orthopedist, Internist) all prescribe generics for me, no problem. But every one of them has warned me not to buy medications at Farmacia Similares. Recently. I do not think this is them not being “up to date”. They don’t have a problem with generics they have a problem with this particular chain.

    Buyer beware.

    • Carol, the article specifically addresses the drugs sold at Farmacias Similares. Since 2010, there are no more “similares”, just brand names and generics. All generics sold have undergone extensive testing and have been approved for sale by the government. Farmacias Similares in particular spent between $50,000- $90,000 on testing for each drug due to the change in the law. Even the government body that oversees pharmacies assured me that the quality is the same among the chains.

      Of course if you feel better buying from another pharmacy, that’s your choice as a consumer. I don’t have stock in Farmacias Similares, so I don’t have a dog in the fight either way.

      • JAVIER MACIAS AMAYA | February 7, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Reply

        Great research you did!! I was just going to suggest you into digging in, like you did on such a delicate topic!
        As a board certified endocrinologist and internal medicine specialist in this country, and also as a mexican who has had the opportunity to know a little bit about that specific topic you researched in (believe me, I have been through many lectures of the COFEPRIS, I myself am actually a drug company speaker for Diabetes products for renamed and well known international drug companies) I am pretty sure your conclussions are actually quite right! I would like to add just a few comments and personal points of view on the matter.
        .
        1.-) Mexican proverb.- “There´s no larger enemy to a mexican than another mexican” ….. We are taught at Med School that products of Farmacias Similares are not good enough, I must recall here that most of the doctors practicing in Mexico were formed some years before and if you test doctors randomly, you´ll find most are do not understand correctly the terms “bioequivalence” “similar” and “generic”. Unlike in the US where there´s been a great competition between drug manufacturing companies, here in Mexico this all started some 20 years ago, the big labs invested a huge lot of money in giving generic, and back then “similar” drugs a bad reputation. They achieved it! I must confess I already sort of knew Farmacias Similares´ products even though sold under the name “Similares” already qualified as “generic”. In response to such aggresive marketing campaigns, I remember a few years ago, Farmacias Similares started one stating.- “We are named Similares but we are Generics”. Most likely you won´t find adds on TV marketing Similares but rather huge “big pharma” drug companies´ products.
        .
        2.-) Sad reality.- Most doctors here in Mexico are not as well prepared as we all should be. Like I said, most doctors will ignore what you researched given the last point. It is eassier to justify a bad patient´s result with saying.- You didn´t take the “patent” drug rather than analysing a given treatment should have been a stronger one for instance. I must say I´m visited by 5 or 6 drug companies marketing people who are paid to making us doctors remember their products, in order for us becoming more familiar to prescribe them. Of course Farmacias Similares do not invest in that as I suppose that would imply the need to raising their costs. I´ve been to international symposiums where a drug manufacturing company invests millions of dollars in bringing in doctors from all over the world to be lectured by great doctors and researchers from all over the world so that you end up convinced you should prescribe their product and not the competition´s.
        .
        3.-) The owner of Farmacias Similares is a very rich bussiness person, he was even rich before the Farmacias Similares bussiness. He is not so much concerned into becoming a billionaire but I can assure you (you can make your research) his company and him is worth at least 500 million USD. There was a time when he wanted to run for high political positions, I think he know doesn´t feel much like going after them, but he has always felt identified with “left” wing ideas and even though I can´t speak for him, I suppose he feels happy to be selling products which comply with the law at a low cost not investing much in propaganda and research (which is what irritates larger international companies) as long as he keeps selling millions of dollars of his products.
        .
        This drug manufacturing and merchandising concerns show how important marketing and merchandising is to drug companies, and how a specific brand can impact so much. I have many patients who feel offended if I prescribe a drug which is merchandised as a generic drug and doctors who will have a very bad impression if I prescribe a very cheap drug instead of a fancy one, a very interesting thing about medicine is that most often the patient will experience an extra “placebo” effect when a doctor dedicates time to the patient and provides a “novel” drug, even patients who have a very limited income sometimes prefer to buy expensive drugs because of the bad reputation of generic ones, especially Similares, I guess a publicist could write an assay on this topic. More educated patients will understand there´s no difference between a brand name drug and the generic, even the Similares´ one, the thing here is everyone wants to beat Similares some how.
        .
        I personally tell patients that the generic brands are ok and particularly I like a lot the generic brands of Farmacias San Pablo and PISA drugs (another mexican lab settled in Guadalajara), and then Walmart´s and Farmacias del Ahorro. But when a patient tells me they can only afford Similares´ I tell them.- That´s fine, we are just going to make sure they work as fine!! (Lol, I guess I´m a little biassed too) Big hugs!

  10. That’s great news. Thank you so much for your diligence and research.

  11. Great Article. Thanks for your time and effort.

  12. Cristina Esparza | February 6, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Reply

    Always impressed with your deligent research! Thank you Paul.

  13. Another example of you doing great research for us. Thanks.

  14. Paul ,

    I would like to Personally Thank you for all the valuable information you
    Provide all of us.

  15. I have been buying generic meds in Mexico for the past 4 years now and they are just as good as name-brand. Also, another great article Paul; appreciate your excellent coverage!

  16. Thank you for the info. We anxiously await the day when we too will be living the Mexico expat dream.

  17. William Wilfong | February 7, 2017 at 11:20 am | Reply

    Want to see a poker face on a Pharmacist? Tell him you are allergic to generics. There face will go blank and they will give you the more expensive version. I lived in Mexico for six months, excellent medical and never had a problem with generics. Had a medical emergency, called the aid car. First guy thru the door was my personal doctor, then the two guys with the gurney. I learned a big lesson, one of the things you check when you rent a condo is if a gurney will fit in the elevator. These three little Mexicans had a hard time with 250 pounds of patient taking me down the stairs….bump, bump, bump.

  18. Thank you! Thorough research is very much appreciated and hard to come by. I’ll be sharing this on my page and I’m sure it will help many. 🙂

  19. Corinne Holden | February 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Reply

    Your articles are so informative. Thank you!

  20. Excellent article, Paul!

  21. I believe it was here where I read that you cant get a Mexican drivers license unless you are a temp or permanent resident! That is wrong, as you can get either a 6 or 3month tourist license ! I just got one last week, but you must have at least 3 months left on your visa!

  22. Paul, I really need help. I am what the doctors call morbidly obese (250) at5’3″, female, looking for Mexican physician that will prescribe diet pills. Via mail preferably as it is difficult for me to travel. Do you know of someone that will help me?

  23. I was impressed with service at Farmacias del Ahorro. I brought some snythroid back with me to US. i will be taking and getting my blood rechecked. It would be so expensive and a nightmare getting the namebrand drug in the US. generics for snythroid were not working for me in the US. bloodwork showed levels were low and bouncing all over the place. when my US Specialist (that visit cost me $148) switched me to name brand everything was fine. my copay was $60 in US for a 30 day supply. I bought a 28 day supply of name brand for $6.50 at Ahorro.
    I am ready to flee the US just to save on medical costs alone! Our cobra health insurance for my husband & I is now $1160 per month not counting copays and deductible.

  24. Dana Yeager | May 21, 2017 at 8:52 am | Reply

    Glad to see this article! I stock up on inhalers for my asthma when I’m in Mexico! They are $10 there and $50 co pay in the US because they stopped making the generic version.

  25. We’ve lived in northern Baja for just over six years. The problem we’ve seen isn’t with the drug companies, but sometimes with the pharmacist. Sometimes, when they say they have a generic, they mean another drug that treats the same problem–there’s no chemical equivalence whatsoever. We’ve learned to double-check before buying a generic.

  26. Thanks Paul. Now, if the Pharmacies would be consistent in keeping their medicines stocked, I’d be set.

    • That is a problem here with everything from pharmacies to grocery stores. Our motto is “If you see it, buy it all!” One pharmacy manager said that he could order things for us with a little notice.

      • Farmacia Similares orders larger quantities fr me and I prepay using Monday sale prices. Farmacia Guadalajara had a years supply of a not well known non generic blood thinner delivered from Guadalajara to PV in two days.

  27. I’m on a blood thinner that has no generic version. My co-pay is 45/mo and I hit the doughnut hole in late September and the 3 mo payment went from $135 to $630! At this point I looked for the name brand in PV and found only two farmacias carried it in very small quantities. Farmacia Guadalajara farmacia checked the warehouse in Guadalajara and ordered me a years supply that was delivered in two days. The cast was $52/mo but when I consider the doughnut hole I saved over $416. Also I use a generic called Pioglitizone, US $45/mo in Mexico $9.50 I purchase it a Farmacia Similares using Monday discounts and save another $426 a year.

  28. Hi Paul, I was recently given medication manufactured by AMSA Laboratories in Mexico. I have done as much research as possible & all looks legit. I even looked thoroughly at the packaging & it is exactly as online. Do you know anything about this Pharmaceutical Company?

    • Hi JC. I am not familiar with that particular pharmaceutical company but I am familiar with the government requirements and oversight of such companies here in Mexico. They have very high standards here, so I would feel comfortable using medications manufactured here.

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