February 22, 2009

Many in El Paso go to Mexico for heathcare

One-third of El Paso, Texas, residents cross the Texas-Mexico border to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for medication and healthcare services, researchers said.

Researchers at The University of Texas School of Public Health El Paso Regional campus found cross-border medication shopping and medical attention can present health dangers -- including medications laced with toxic substances that are banned in the U.S. market; incorrect medications or dosage prescribed by unqualified personnel; and counterfeit medications.

Dr. Victor Cardenas said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Texas State Board of Pharmacy do not have strict regulations against cross-border medication and U.S. Customs typically allows the entry of limited quantities of medications.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, found while 33 percent travel from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, 5.2 percent travel from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso seeking more affordable and easily accessible medication and healthcare services.

This (study) is a mirror of what happens across the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The three main reasons people travel across border lines are affordable medications and services; savings on doctors' fees by using a pharmacy attendant as a doctor; and the attentiveness of bilingual pharmacy attendants who can answer questions in depth for patients, study investigator Jose Rivera of The University of Texas at Austin said in a statement.