A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that about 2.3 million people in the U.S. import medicine each year to save money. According to that same study, Hispanics in the U.S. are almost four times more likely to have imported medicine than non-Hispanic white people. I believe the percentage of Hispanic people is so much higher due to four main factors.
The first two factors are quantitative findings:
First, in 2018, almost 18% of Hispanics did not have health insurance, compared to only 5.4% of White and 9.3% of Black people. The JAMA study found that people who were uninsured were over three times more likely to import medicine than the insured.
Two, the JAMA study found that 4.4% of immigrants imported medicines for personal use, 3.2 times more than the average consumer. According to Pew Research, about 21% of Hispanics living in the U.S. are not American citizens, and 44% of all immigrants report Hispanic or Latino backgrounds.
Three, while the JAMA study recognizes the importance of online pharmacies for people buying medicines from other countries, it mentions that people with proximity to Mexico and Canada are more likely to buy drugs in-person from those countries. It’s fair to assume that Mexican Americans who live in border states, such as California and New Mexico may feel some additional comfort and motivation to buy more affordable drugs at a Mexican pharmacy.
Four, sadly, and wrongly, undocumented Hispanic people living in the U.S. sometimes live in fear of using the American health system believing they will be deported. One recent study showed that the Trump administration’s pronouncements and policies have exacerbated those fears, curtailing access to healthcare services among Hispanics. That demographic would most benefit from importation using online pharmacies. Last year, I wrote about how undocumented Hispanic people were buying counterfeit drugs from street vendors when they could be using safe mail-order international pharmacies. To do so they would have to obtain a prescription from a trusted licensed practitioner.
To rub salt on the wound, it’s likely that many Hispanic people in the U.S. have lost their health insurance due to the economic meltdown of Covid-19. According to Families USA, there are 5.4 million newly uninsured Americans. Many such job losses are in the service sector and Hispanic people are highly represented in that industry. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic people work in the service sector, compared to 14.7 of non-Hispanic white people.
The PharmacyChecker Spanish site provides the information necessary to help Spanish speakers living in the U.S., who feel more comfortable in their native language, if they need to buy cheaper and safe medication from another country.