If there is one thing that Mexican streets don’t lack, it is pharmacies (farmacias). In any given city, you’ll find one nearby. Sometimes there’ll be several on a block. You’ll even find them in small towns in the countryside. There might even be one that’s open 24 hours, although you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it. (It’s not uncommon to have to bang the door to wake the pharmacist up).
Pharmacies come in different sizes and shapes in Mexico. The smallest ones will consist of little more than a small storefront with a little counter. In addition to medications, they might sell candy, chips, soft drinks, ice cream and even milk. On the other hand, you have the upscale Sanborns, which is a pharmacy/restaurant/department store where you can get brand-name clothing, HD TVs or have a beer with some friends.
Pharmacies often have an associated medical practice where a doctor can give you a check up and write up a prescription for you for dirty cheap. The check up includes the basics: taking your blood pressure, looking at your throat, feeling your stomach or whatever it is appropriate for the ailment you have. By dirty cheap, I mean $1.50 to $2.00 US. These doctors are usually fresh out of medical school, and they’re making some money while they save enough money to start their own practices. With few exceptions, the medications in the prescriptions can be filled easily and they’re typically very inexpensive.
Some pharmacies are selling generic pharmaceuticals. Speaking of generics, there is a whole chain of pharmacies that focuses on them: Farmacias Similares.You will be able to recognize them immediately because their mascot, Dr. Simi, will often be dancing in front of the store to whatever song happens to be popular at the moment. Never a people to miss an opportunity for fun, Mexicans of all ages enjoy the larger than life character.
The Mexican government carefully oversees the production of both brand name and generic drugs and they are both safe and effective. In fact, many pharmaceuticals used in the US were manufactured in Mexico.
Even when there isn’t a doctor at hand, Mexicans commonly consult the pharmacist before going to a private doctor. Locals trust the experience of the pharmacist or they may already know what medication they want. And the advice of the pharmacist is free.
Mexicans, especially in rural areas, also rely on the thousands-years-old herbal traditions for healing. Before the Spanish arrived, indigenous people had a vast arsenal of knowledge of plants and their healing properties.
You can’t find a ”mercado” (market) that doesn’t have an old woman selling traditional herbal remedies for common ailments.
The negative aspect of these practices is that people tend to self-diagnose and self-prescribe, with the risks that doing so conveys. For example, friend of mine recently was hospitalized after unsuccessfully trying to heal himself with self-prescribed medications that just weren’t enough to treat the thrombosis and infections that he obviously failed to identify. He ended up in the hospital.
The moral of the story is: if what you have is more severe than a stomachache or a common cold, or if the problems persist after two days, it’s time to go to a private doctor that doesn’t work for a pharmacy.
She has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and the BBC.