MARFA, Texas — In borderland Texas, a widespread lack of health insurance goes along with poverty, and high rates of diseases like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure.
Cheaper prescription drugs to treat these conditions are available across the border in Mexico. But physicians and law enforcement are tracking a relatively new trend — the smuggling of medicine in bulk from Mexico to U.S. patients who no longer feel safe shopping for them in Mexico.
Pharmacist Jorge Sandoval says people who buy his medicines these days often buy for people they don’t even know.
“There’s a trade in legal prescription medication,” he said in Spanish. “The trade is generated by people (in both countries) who want to buy medicine at a lower price. People are bringing in ice chests to fill with medicines that they sell to friends and relatives.”
About 33 percent of Texans have no medical insurance, the highest percentage of uninsured in the nation.
That’s one reason why, for years, people have crossed the border for cheaper medicine. The diabetes medicine Metformin is $35 a month here, $15 in Mexico. The blood thinner Coumadin is $60 a month here, $15 there.