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.
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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