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Psoriasis Medical Tourism in Mexico: My Story

Psoriasis Medical Tourism in Mexico: My Story

If you started following me, my Instagram and my blog recently you probably thought that I’m just like any other woman, carefreely traveling the world in pretty outfits. It’s hard to imagine that less than 2 years ago, however, I was sharing with you my photos and stories about my psoriasis. This is a story of my medical tourism in Mexico.

I was a contributor to a psoriasis column for two health publications, and while learning more self-confidence to ignore my flares by doing what I planned on doing and dressing how I planned on dressing or undressing, psoriasis has been a big part of my life. At some point, however, my psoriasis stopped being a problem and so I paused writing about it.

Did my psoriasis get cured? I’m sorry to disappoint, but psoriasis isn’t something that can be ‘cured’ forever as there’s no forever fix to an overactive immune system.

Did I learn to accept my condition? While I have realized that there’s no cure and I must live with it, I actually didn’t even think about it.

What changed then?

I stopped traveling full-time.

Since I left the Netherlands back in 2014 I’ve been bouncing between the US and London for a while, but without a proper base. By the time I moved to Playa del Carmen in Mexico my psoriasis was a complete mess, as you could see in some of my photos.

When you’re working remotely while traveling, this can sometimes lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Working long hours or during awkward times without a routine or schedule can make one stressed or tired, especially if you have clients in different time zones.

In my case, I’ve left my skin without any treatment or care, and as a result, I was almost completely covered in psoriasis spots. I thought that my will to live just like any other human without a chronic disease was strong enough, and while mentally it was, physically my body didn’t really get the memo.

Over the years, various doctors in different countries have been testing multiple forms of treatment on me and every time I was moving they liked to start the entire psoriasis therapy from the beginning: topical creams, UV lights, steroid creams, charcoal products and other things that never really worked for me.

Knowing what I know about my illness and by researching a lot I decided to treat myself. One might say that we need doctors to tell us what to do and what medicines to take, and while it’s true you also know your body best.

plaque psoriasis
Before starting any type of treatment…

Becoming My Own Doctor in Mexico

By visiting different doctors in public and private sectors in Poland, United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands or Mexico I saw that dermatologists simply aren’t always able to follow up with every single new drug for psoriasis that comes out.

They treat many different conditions and with many drugs being available in some countries but not all, so many times it came down to them telling me that I need to tell them what kind of prescription do I need from them and whether they can provide it or not.

If you’ve been dealing with psoriasis for some years now you might know exactly what I’m talking about. We, those who deal with this condition have to research everything, see what works for us and basically treat ourselves with doctor’s supervision.

Once I settled in Mexico I researched all my options. As a digital nomad with no health insurance (no travel insurance covers chronic conditions) my options were limited to self-funded drugs.

In Mexico, most drugs are available over the counter. Quite often tourists and locals go to Mexico just to buy medicines, as they’re available over the country and are much cheaper. Not surprisingly I was able to get Methotrexate, an oral medicine, over the counter for psoriasis that I was prescribed back in the Netherlands.

With one small difference. In the Netherlands, despite my health insurance and prescription I had to pay 55 Euros a month for these pills and required weekly visits at the hospital for a check-up. It was expensive and required me to work from home for a day.

In Mexico, I could simply go to a pharmacy and ask for the box of Methotrexate, no questions asked. It was the same exact drug in the same exact box I was receiving it in the Netherlands, but I had to pay 80 Pesos for a monthly supply, which is around 3.50 Euros.

medical tourism in Mexico

Methotrexate Treatment

As I’ve had experience with this drug before I knew what to expect, double-checked the right dosage and controlled my blood tests, which can also be cheaply done in Mexico. By saying that I knew what to expect I knew that I’d feel bad after it, as it’s a strong dangerous drug and it’s often used to treat cancer, in bigger doses naturally.

Being my only available option I was happy with the results. My skin partially cleared up and before Matt and I left Mexico we were able to stock up on more boxes.

Psoriasis Treatment in the USA

When we moved to the US and set up health insurance, I was able to see the dermatologist and after explaining what I’ve been taking, showing photos and the stages of my skin, I was able to receive the correct biological drugs without any issues.

I’ve been wanting to quit Methotrexate, as you cannot take it for 6 months before even thinking of getting pregnant. (I wrote more on psoriasis and pregnancy here)

No one has asked me to show proof of previous medical history (which would be difficult, as the Netherlands won’t send your medical history to the US for instance), told to try stupid not working topical treatments all over again. 

My doctor and I decided to try Stelara, one dose every three months that I had to inject myself with. Truth to be told it worked miracles. Within a month my psoriasis has cleared completely. While we paid a significant amount of money for US health insurance as self-employed, my insurance had no issues with anything and I was happy.


Left: before Stelara. Right: after 2 doses of Stelara.

Until We Moved to Europe…

As Stelara, Humira and other biological drugs for autoimmune diseases got finally approved in some places in Europe, they’re officially being subsidized by the national public health system. 

After we canceled our US insurance we were denied residency in Italy and as a result, couldn’t enter the Italian health system. Our only option was getting private insurance, which isn’t actually a bad option for more people – just not for those who require biological treatment.

The problem is that biological immunosuppressant drugs are insanely expensive due to patent issues, hence why affordable alternatives cannot enter the market until 2022. Hence why no insurance company wants to pay for them.

Due to my pre-existing conditions and Stelara treatment I had to disclose, basically all expat insurances and private insurance companies in Europe decided to reject me. I’m not talking about not covering my biological drugs but rejecting me from the insurance.

It actually caused a giant mess that forced me to fly very last-minute from Italy to Poland to give birth in a private hospital, as Italian hospital decided not to accept me without insurance that I couldn’t obtain.

When I finally give up on signing up for national health insurance in Italy and Poland, as we weren’t able to do either, I thought I’d just use my savings and pay for my medicine out of pocket until we’re able to get on the US health insurance again.

Truth to be told, I’m one of a few people who like the US insurance but despises US pharmacological companies’ greed. The system isn’t ideal, leaving many without health coverage due to high insurance prices, but as pharma companies keep increasing prices of drugs out of green, the insurance gets more expensive. However, if you actually need specific treatment or surgery, it works. At least it always worked for me.

Speaking from my experience with European public insurances (which nota bene aren’t “free” as Americans like to state, because your employer actually pays for it out of your payslip), I remember even my family members waiting 2 years for surgery or over 6 months for a specialist visit and yes, that also includes oncologists. This is why many people go privately and pay out of pocket if they need to get something done quickly and efficiently. Which proved to be true…

Trying to Get Biological Drugs in Europe

Everyone’s impression was that once you actually have the insane amount of money to pay for a medicine you need, you’ll be able to get it. This wasn’t exactly true.

I visited various doctors in Italy, Poland, UK and heard the same thing over and over again: we won’t prescribe it to you

Dermatologists I visited either had no clue about Stelara’s existence or told me they don’t support biological drugs and won’t prescribe them. One doctor said the only way I could get it would be to go through the entire therapy with topical creams, UV lights, and Methotrexate, confirm its failure again, then check myself to a hospital and ‘maybe’ I’d be able to receive it there.

This is when I turned to my good old Mexico for help again…

Getting Stelara in Mexico

Upon my research and help of my friends, I was able to get a confirmation that I could get a prescription for Stelara, assuming I’m paying for the drug itself out of pocket. 

I ended up calling up multiple pharmacies in Mexico and found out that I can pick up Stelara from a pharmacy in Mexico City. And more importantly, it costs only 68,500 MXN (approx. $3530). I specifically said ‘only’, because in the US since January 1st 2019 when pharmaceutical companies increased prices, the retail price of a supply of 0.5 milliliters of Stelara is around $10,770. I need 4 doses per year. 

Psoriasis is extremely expensive.

farmacia de paris zocalo

I’m not surprised that Utah insurance companies prefer to send people to Mexico to get their drugs and come back. While I’ve had experience with buying drugs in Mexico before, I had no clue how would it look like to get a special drug. But, it turned out to be easier than ever, but frankly, if I didn’t speak fluent Spanish I would have had to ask someone to do it for me. 

Upon my arrival in Mexico City I checked the pharmacy website in the morning to see if Stelara is available – It was. I then called them to ask which branch I should visit and found out that Zocalo pharmacy has one. 

Even though I’ve lived in Mexico City before and wandered around Zocalo (historic center) a bunch of times, I never noticed a whole street filled mostly with pharmacies. To the extent, there were 3 pharmacies at one intersection, one of which was the one I was looking for – Farmacia Especializada. 

Sidenote: I later found out that a pharmacy next door – Farmacia de Paris, is actually a historic spot from 1944 that continues to develop more than 100 remedies on site. It also has a pretty historic system of getting the medicine out of the cellar, which works like the carousel – you should see it for yourself. 

Farmacia Especializada sells a lot of expensive medicine, but it’s still a ‘Mexican-style’ pharmacy which means it’s a pretty open-air type of shop with counters almost on the street. Hence why it was surrounded by a few security guards. 

The whole process took about 10 minutes, no questions asked. I received Stelara packed perfectly in a big cooler. As I wanted to stock up I asked for another one, but as they needed to order it I was told to come back in 2 days. What, ironically, was faster than when I had to order it in California. 

Farmacia Especializada


As you can see medical tourism in Mexico has saved me twice. When I shared my story on my Instagram post, many of my followers decided to share their medical tourism stories. Do you have any questions? Want to share your story or concern? Write it below in the comment section.


Thursday 9th of December 2021

Hey Anna, thanks for sharing your wonderful story!

I've got an autoimmune disease that's so rare there aren't many treatments indicated for it yet aside from Prednisone. There are some people who've had luck with Humira so I've been trying to find a doctor to prescribe it.

Would you mind sharing how/where you finally managed to get your prescription for Stelara? Speaking Spanish, traveling, and paying for the drug are no problem if I can find a way to get a prescription.

Anna Karsten

Thursday 9th of December 2021

At the pharmacy directly :)

Walter L Johnson

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Remember that stress is the biggest factor in aggravating psoriasis and moving so often is stressful. Growing up I did that a military dependent but as an adult I have moved sharply less often being in my 2nd home in 44 years of marriage.

Walter L Johnson

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

The article was very helpful so I will give you a heads up on the next tier of drugs. I have been on medicines you are on and have been on, and they eventually for me lost effectiveness. Taltz is the next tier of biological medicines, but you also have the option of a medical device that costs a little over $8,000 and lasts for years before replacing the UV-B bulbs is necessary, which is a home UV-B treatment booth covered as a medical device and used under medical direction. I think doctors up the time too much as skin darkens, but it is one alternative. They fold up against a wall, and elsewhere you can get much of the benefit from sunbathing the same amount of time with a sunscreen that only protects against other than UV-B light. I have spent decades protecting my skin, so I only tried that approach for 6 months, but I didn't like standing in the booth for 20 minutes with nothing to do and a pillowcase to protect my scalp, face and eyes. The first step is to apply sunscreen everywhere.

The problem with health insurance in the USA is that when your insurance company pays too much for medicines it ultimately increases the health insurance premiums for everyone. Insulin is $24.99 a vial at Walmart or $9 if I let the insurance company pay about $180 per vial, which makes be suspect kickbacks in not using the cheapest source. Natural insulin is 50% fast acting (type R) and 50% slower acting (type N) and if manufactured identically to natural insulin is not even patentable.

Anna Karsten

Wednesday 27th of October 2021

I'm fully aware that the drugs might eventually lose their effectiveness... I can definitely see it :( I had the medical device before (they're rentable in Europe) and it did absolutely nothing for me. I totally know this about insurance. We got a bill (that insurance paid) for about $800 for kids' vaccines and when we paid it out of pocket it was less than $100... so there's definitely a giant scam going on.


Saturday 21st of August 2021

Thanks for sharing your experience and tips about traveling and living abroad. Our son got accepted to a University in Canada, but was not given a study permit due to “Medical inadmissibility”- his Crohn’s Disease treatment and medication would be a cost burden to the system, they said, and travelers’ insurance does not cover biologics (he takes Stelara and methotrexate).what a shock — he found out only 3 weeks before the start of the semester, so can’t go to school there, now. It was a big blow, but we are learning more and it helps to find people like you online, to talk about what has helped. Thank you.

Irene Ilachinski

Saturday 21st of August 2021

I’m glad to have found this blog about biologics/meds and traveling! Our son was accepted to study in Canada, but they didn’t issue him a permit at the border. His medical exam for the study permit deemed him “medically inadmissible”, because his Crohns treatment and medications (Stelara being pricey everywhere) is an excessive cost burden. Traveler’s insurance will not cover Crohn’s, either. So now he has to take a Gap Year and reapply to US schools, where he is covered under our insurance until he is 26. I’m glad to have found this blog for people who have gone through challenges of obtaining and paying for biologics while living and traveling abroad. Like you say, it helps to have a community.

Anna Karsten

Sunday 22nd of August 2021

I'm so sorry it happened to your son, that's awful :(

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