Cross-Border Caution

October 01, 2013

Need a prescription drug? While a trip across the border or a visit to an international online pharmacy might be tempting, Spencer Wenger, MD, and Susannah Ehret, MD, urge patients to put their safety first.

Don’t DIY: Self-prescribed discount drugs from Mexico or Canada might seem smart, but cutting your physician out of the equation can spell danger. “A doctor will know which medication is truly appropriate,” Dr. Wenger says.

Beware of bad combinations: Some international and online pharmacies may sell drugs in combinations—for example, ibuprofen and prednisone—that can be disastrous if used together.

Consider the consequences: Unregulated drugs can be dangerous. For example, Neo-Melubrina “treats” high fever but has been banned in the U.S. for good reason. “It causes terrible immune suppression,” Dr. Ehret says. “It fights fever by knocking down white blood cells,” which weakens the body’s ability to fight infection.