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Study Finds Controlled Substances Make Up Most of Drug Declarations at Mexico Border



The majority of drugs declared at a U.S. Customs Service station at the Mexico/Texas border are substances controlled in the U.S., two University of Texas researchers found (Marvin D. Shepherd, PhD and Kristin McKeithan, R.Ph., "Examination of the Type and Amount of Pharmaceutical Products Being Declared by U.S. Residents Upon Returning to the U.S. from Mexico at the Laredo, Texas Border Crossing," University of Texas at Austin).

The study was commissioned by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Texas Pharmacy Foundation to assess the prevalence of senior citizens crossing the border to purchase medications at cheaper prices from Mexican drug outlets. Many drugs which require a prescription in the U.S. are available over the counter in Mexico and prescriptions for many medications are easier to obtain in Mexico than in the U.S. The researchers examined 5,624 declaration forms from the Laredo, Texas border crossing filed on 84 days between July 1994 and June 1995.

People declaring pharmaceuticals are generally young. The average age of those declaring medications was 34.5 years (33.2 years for males and 34.8 years for females). The median age was even younger, at 24 years for males and 35 years for females. 9.4% of the people declaring were over the age of 50 and 60.3% were males.

Although most of the people declaring drugs said they were from Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, some said they resided in states as far away as Alaska and Massachusetts.

The most common drug declared at the border was Valium®, followed by Rohypnol®, Tadil®, Tenuate Dospan®, Neopercodan®, Diminex®, Asenlix®, Tylex®, Nubain®, Qual®, Halcion®, Ritalin®, Ativan®, and Somlagesic®. All but the last are controlled substances in the U.S. The study found that an average of 11,000 Valium® tablets and 4,000 Rohypnol® tablets were declared every day.

The authors hypothesize that senior citizens may be buying medications over the border to save money, but apparently are not generally declaring them when they re-enter the U.S.