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Across the Border: Affordable Medicine

Medicine. We have all inevitably needed it at one time or another regarding the many ailments and illnesses we tend to fall victim to in our lifetime. It feels like a given, or like it should be a given for it is regarding your health. Everyone deserves — or rather needs — access to medication because for many, it’s life or death. With the skyrocketing price of medicine in America, desperate Americans find themselves without the means to buy exorbitantly priced medications here in the United States. As a result, thousands of Americans are traveling across the border into Mexico to purchase significantly cheaper versions of medications that are otherwise inaccessible to them in the states. But this practice has also come with a whole different set of devastating repercussions but it’s worth taking a deep dive into the promising sanctuary that many have been pursuing to replace their medicinal needs. 

Exactly what are people doing? 

The rising trend for medication prices are up, not down. And the devastating effects of that have been felt all through the continental United States. The practice of accessing more affordable drugs across thes border is not a new one as it has been going on for decades but many feel that it is a necessity rather than a want. Michelle Fenner has a son that had been diagnosed with Type I diabetes — but the cost of insulin for a measly three months is $3,700 USD which comes out to about $15,000 USD. This is why she chose to try her luck across the border where her son gets Insulin for about $600 dollars, a price that isn’t negligible in comparison to the whopping $3,700. Fenner isn’t alone in this, NPR states how “1 million people in California alone cross to Mexico annually for health care, including to buy prescription drugs. And between 150,000 and 320,000 Americans list health care as a reason for traveling abroad each year. Cost savings is the most commonly cited reason.” People are flocking to Mexico in search of a different kind of asylum. 

Is this legal?  How safe is this practice?

The legality of all it requires overcoming certain loopholes in order to ensure safety and protection from the American government. Border Control has a law that enables people to bring back prescriptions that can last them up to ninety days for they don’t see the imminent danger or harm of it. Technically, it is a violation but nobody has been prosecuted on charges related to this practice. 

The most prominent question is the safety and purity of the medication.  There is no way for the FDA to check or validate the purity of these drugs. Reports dating back to almost twenty years ago refuting the purity of these medications as U.S. officials tested the medication Zocor and found absolutely none of the active ingredient as part of its contents. This was also done on the medication Carisoprodol which has similar results with only trace amounts of the active ingredient being present.  These pharmacies contain a large variety of medications ranging from Cholesterol medications to medications that treat depression such as Zoloft. 

Will medication impurity ever become a true problem?

 More recent reports from 2019 found devastating evidence of the escalation of more potent impurities being present in counterfeit pills being distributed to those seeking cheaper alternatives. Mexican cartels have begun the mass distribution of lethal doses of the opioid Fentanyl,  packaged in these pills under the pretense that they are a cheaper alternative to unaffordable medications in the United States. This has led to the devastating escalation of the already rampant opioid epidemic in the United States resulting in fatal overdoses through these pills. Recent reports from the DEA cite that Fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose-related deaths in comparison to every other illicit drug. 

The American healthcare system has driven many into sheer desperation with their alternative now having unthinkable, adverse effects. The solution comes in the form of chapter healthcare and accessible medications for everyone so this perilous practice doesn’t force people to look into alternatives. The future holds the unknown, but your next dose of insulin should not be part of that. 

News writer for her campus!!! She/her and am currently at the university of florida
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