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August 02, 1999 12:00 AM

Prescriptions in Mexico?

HealthBeat at 6: Mexican Prescriptions
Tonight on HealthBeat we talk with a man who ventured south of the border this spring in search of a better buy. For 75-year-old Clark Butler, breathing in the fresh air of a beautiful KELO-LAND day doesn't come as easily as it used to. He quit smoking 32-years ago, but he's still paying the price--asthma, emphysema and chronic lung problems. The bill for his medications? 250-dollars a month. Clark says, "You get to be 70-80 years old and you're sick and you cannot afford your medicines. Where do you turn?" Not to Medicare. It doesn't cover prescriptions. "Practically everything that I'm buying here has at least doubled, or very close to it since we started just in five years." Clark could afford these prescription drugs, but at 250-dollars a month, it was a hit on the budget, when he mentioned that to his doctor, you won't believe what his doctor said. "He gave me the last prescription and he said why don't you, when you get down there, just buy a year's supply that's when he wrote these all up for year-end. He said you're dumb not to." "Down there" is Mexico. Just 40 miles south of Clark's annual snowbird haven. "Every tube that you see here is exactly the same as you get out of Mexico, the only difference it it's written in Spanish." Well, there's one other difference... Clark spent 68-percent less in Mexico. "These pharmaceutical companies are not losing money in Mexico. There are millions of people down there buying this stuff." Ask the drug companies and they'll say prices are high here because of high research costs. Clark's not buying that from them either, "According to my research, they only spend about 3-percent on research." Clark was admittedly a bit cautious when he first went south of the border this spring--and only bought two months supply of his prescriptions. But he liked the price well-enough that next time he says, he'll probably buy a year's supply. How do you know you're getting the same thing in Mexico? You can't always know for sure because the labels are written in Spanish. The best advice is to know your U-S label well enough to recognize it's Mexican version,check that label for an expiration date to make sure it's not out-of-date, and find a pharmacist in Mexico that speaks English well so you can discuss any concerns. Either way--buyer beware!

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