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I know I live in a third world country and all that. Most things in CR don't bother me. If I need to go to CAJA I take a book or just watch the people. The prices on just about everything is high, but it was my choice to live here so that is part of the cost---not that big of a deal.

 

Medicine however is another story. I don't fault the CAJA for not carrying all the brands of drugs that are available in the states or other countries. In fact we buy some of our meds on the local market, while not cheap we are able to get them. The problem comes when there is no place in CR to buy the medicines you need.

 

There is nothing lost by any CR business or government agency by allowing Ticos or Expats to buy drugs over the internet. If a CR doctor writes a prescription for a drug that is not available here, why does the government place a heavy tax and burden for getting it someplace else? It is not a TV or computer or something else a person can do without.

 

In a news letter from Fran and Andy one of the reasons they are leaving CR is Fran has an eye disease that requires a drug that is not available. My wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a few weeks ago and I'm afraid we will be faced with the same decision as Fran and Andy. As of right now the drug that CAJA has worked fine, it has been around since 1935 however. The newer drugs that she will be needing one day are not here.

 

I guess what is--is. Government here is not much different than in the states---if they do something that helps the people it is by accident. Ed

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Oh, Ed, I'm so sorry to hear about your wife's diagnosis. You know, though, that until/unless the law changes here (or maybe it's the interpretation of the law), you can't have meds (including OTC meds) shipped here. When you return to the US or friends or family visit you, bringing meds here in your luggage seems to be fine.

 

Good luck to you both!

 

regards,

Gayle

 

ps: I'll send you an email separately

Edited by salish sea

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The only way we could afford the price they charge for drugs in the states is get back on Part "D". You get the same drug in Canada for what it cost in the states for your co-pay.

 

With CAJA going up and the cost of the drugs we buy on the local market, plus we have $106 each in medicare cost plus $300. a month for our supplemental, which I'm very glad we didn't drop. I'm sure a lot she will need is going to come out of our pockets and somewhere there is a tipping point.

 

Thanks for your kinds words.

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The purpose of limiting the importation of medicines and other products is, in fact, a public health one. Like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Ministry of Health here controls what is legally available in an attempt to prevent dangerous or ineffective products from entering the country. And, again like the FDA, the Ministry of Health has limited resources with which to investigate what is safe and effective and what is not. Importing approved medications through official channels makes most, but not all, things available in one form or another.

 

There are, of course, some products that are not approved for importation. In the main, those are things that have very limited applicability. That is, few of Costa Rica's 4.25 million or so inhabitants need them. It's not so different in the U.S. where access to experimental drugs is limited. Of interest, however, is that I use a medication which is not available in the U.S. So the door does swing both ways.

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So why does that "forbidden" list include Breathe Right nasal strips? They were determined by customs to be "drugs." Say what???

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Shea, I think that, if you look a little deeper, you'll find that the Breathe Right nasal strips are not "forbidden". Rather, they are simply not on the list of items which are allowed. There's a difference between what is prohibited and what is just not yet approved. If the strips are not on the approved list, they simply may not have been acted upon by the Ministry of Health. Absent some request to approve them, they'll probably continue to be not importable.

 

None of that means that the Breathe Right nasal strips are not a legitimate product.

 

 

 

Edited by David C. Murray

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I had a $30 or $40 order of Breathe Right strips sent to my aerocasillas address at ARCR. Customs held up the package, declaring that the strips were "drugs". They kept them for considerable time, then said I needed a permit to receive such items here. By the time it was all over, I paid around $160 to receive my package.

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Konotahe, I have no useful input on this topic, just wanted to say I'm sorry that you guys are going through such a difficult situation. That must be very stressful. Good thoughts to you both.

 

Shea, I recently saw Breathe-Right strips at a little supermarket here. It's only about a year old or so, and it's small, but has a lot of items you can't find anywhere else. I cannot remember the name for the life of me, but we walk past it fairly often, so I'll make note of it the next time we go past it. (Something starting with "V", I think???)

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I'm sure that the USA, Canada and many other countries have the pocketbook and more experts to check these drugs than CR. I'm speaking of approved drugs imported from first world countries not some backwater lab in Asia. The US government closed down online buying of drugs from Canada and used the same excuse, that the drugs were not approved by the FDA. It was a lie. The same drug could be bought in the states but for 3-4 times as much, it was about the money and I have to wonder if that is not the case here also. If the drug company does not pay off someone to get their product approved---then it doesn't come to Costa Rica.

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konotahe, you wrote, "The US government closed down online buying of drugs from Canada and used the same excuse, that the drugs were not approved by the FDA. It was a lie."

 

Well, yes and no. You are absolutely correct that the U.S. government has restricted or prohibited the importation of drugs from Canadian pharmacies but it wasn't only because they were not approved by the FDA. In fact, most of the drugs offered by the Canadian pharmacies bear the same names and packaging as what's dispensed in the U.S.

 

The underlying story is that the problem of overtly counterfeit drugs is very significant. You (and certainly I) are in no position to know, or to be able to find out, what's in that little pill under the plastic bubble unless by some chance you (but certainly not I) are a qualified chemist and have a fully equipped analytical laboratory. That stuff could be anything or nothing at all. By restricting distribution in the U.S. to U.S.-sourced products, there is a better (but not absolute) chance that the product is what the label says it is and that it'll do what it's supposed to do.

 

None of that, however, is to dispute the obvious fact that drugs in the U.S. are more expensive than they should be or need to be and that the pharmaceutical companies are profiteering.

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Part of the problem is surely that the local Pharma producer/vendors in CR (as with the US and Canada), do not want to lose control of either their monopolies on or revenues from their products and therefore guard jealously against the importation of medicines from without their respective coutnries. (One might have imagined that CAFTA would've overridden that situation, but evidently it did not.)

 

Compunding the problem is a situation in CR involving one or a few in-country producers of pharmaceuticals where assays of certain drugs from those producers were found to have less active ingredient than listed on the box/bottle. This information came to me from a doctor friend in CR and also from an importer both of whom I consider reliable sources.

So apart from applying to the CR Govt for an import permit for needed medicines, which is expensive to do and which is very often denied, the simplest way to bring in needed Rx drugs is to fly to the US (or Canada, etc.) and bring them back with you as personal items. There is some international law or agreement of carriage that allows such personal items to travel with you on the plane as personal items, duty-free. And CR Customs Agents generally tend to ignore such items as personal medications in their labeled Rx bottles when folks arrive. A traveler is allowed up to six-months' worth of a prescription (or other) medications to come in with him each time he arrives in CR.

 

HTH

Paul M.

==

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Without disputing anything you wrote above, Paul, I think there's another dimension to this matter. Excluding the population who are wholly dependent upon the CAJA for their medical care, the market for some products here in Costa Rica is very small and the number of those who can afford them is smaller still. In the past, participants in this Forum have asked about the availability of some little-known, rarely prescribed medications which they can obtain in the States. What they've learned is that those meds are not provided by the CAJA and that they're not available from the commercial pharmacies.

 

In order for any product, whether it's a pharmaceutical, organic cheese, or engine oil, to be made available, there has to be a potential demand large enough to persuade the supplier to bring it to the market. While I'm skeptical that many medications are approved for distribution here or anywhere else on the basis of bribes to the approving bodies, still the costs associated with distributing anything in any market have to warrant the potential for profit. For better or worse, the companies aren't doing any of this out of the goodness of their hearts (if such exists).

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True David, there must be enough demand to make it financially feasable to produce an item.

 

Your premise, which I agree with, seems to me would (in many cases) only amplify a need to travel back to the US (or Canada, etc.) to procure needed Rx-es when they cannot be got in CR.

 

And if the party can find an inexpensive r/t flight like to FLL or MCO they very likely may be able to have their doctor in the US (etc.) call in their Rx from wherever s/he is into one of the parmacy chains in the arrival city where it would then be convenient to pick up the Rx.

 

All in all, the costs in time, effort and fees for getting an import permit (and for applying a new permit the each subsequent time the person wanted to bring in another lot of the Rx) surely, in the long run, would largely undercut those CR-based expenses by just flying back to the US and proceeding as described in the paragraph immediately above.

 

Regards,

 

Paul M.

==

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