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Bonnie

Delays in Customs Procedures, Followed by Prohibited Importation of Cosmetics, Toiletries, and Medicines

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Bonnie    409

In my role as U.S. Warden, I met with Velkys Munoz of Mailboxes, Etc. at her request on Tuesday. She sought my help in relaying to the expat community that customs is now requiring for certain things, including medications, very burdensome paperwork which includes a prescription from the doctor in the originating country, a doctor in Panama, and a signed statement by the recipient that the products are for personal use. Supplements require the signed statement of the recipient, too, as do other items like creams, makeup, etc. The delay time for receiving such items in Boquete therefore is approximately one month after the required paperwork is submitted.

I contacted the U.S. Embassy to see if they could obtain a more official account of exactly what is required. The Embassy agreed to contact the Panamanian authorities and, once they have this information, will issue a Message to U.S. Citizens which I will post here. In the meantime, those of you who depend on imported medications need to start well ahead of time on your order if you cannot find the drug(s) in Panama.

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JohnF13    75

That's the way to do it!  Government incapability to provide sufficient medication, then make personal imports difficult.  Guess they don't appreciate efficiency.

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Brundageba    328

Until something changes, you just have to jump through the hoops.  Best to start now.  The whole thing makes no sense. 

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MarieElaine    27

Just another reason to move elsewhere.  I see postings about how upset the Panamanian government is about the fact that expats are leaving in droves but they continue to make it more and more difficult for us to stay.

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Whskyman    3

We are "guests" here .... it's pretty simple - we must adapt to the culture and play by the rules.  If that is too much for folks, then go elsewhere.  I, myself, love it here!

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Woody    60
2 hours ago, Whskyman said:

We are "guests" here .... it's pretty simple - we must adapt to the culture and play by the rules.  If that is too much for folks, then go elsewhere.  I, myself, love it here!

Whysky, most of us try to abide by the laws of Panama.  But, the problem here is that these rules seem to be invented by a bureaucrat based on his daily whims.  As near as I can tell, all of the mail forwarding services were surprised by these new requirements.

On any given day, you may or may not be able to obtain needed pharmaceuticals in Panama.  These bureaucratic "whims" have a callous disregard for the health of people who are receiving prescriptions by mail.  

Your premise of adapting to and accepting the culture is quite similar to some comments that were made in a discussion last month regarding driving safety.  When something is clearly screwed up, the right thing to do is to try to fix it.  Death or departure are two alternatives that I prefer to avoid.  

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Whskyman    3

Woody - if people are dependent upon obtaining their medications from the US or wherever ..... and then needing a shipping service to deliver those drugs to them here in Panama ... then I say, they are not adapting very well.  My wife has 21 medications and I have 14 - that we take every day.  Some of them have been modified because they aren't available here in Panama.  Sure, we could get them from the US, but we chose to get them from here..... we adapted.  

For those who will say they must get their medications from the States or whatever, then I question why they are living here in the first place. Healthcare and prescriptions were issues that we considered BEFORE we moved here and became residents.

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Keith Woolford    308

In any number of situations here, periods of enforcing regulations to the letter generally only take place after abuse is caught. Other examples might be recent crackdowns on perpetual tourism, and parking at the BCP.

Concerning medications and pharmaceuticals, there have been recent busts of both real and fake medications entering the country for resale, so my guess is that authorities are tightening up on enforcement of procedures in response.

 

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Bonnie    409
6 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

In any number of situations here, periods of enforcing regulations to the letter generally only take place after abuse is caught. Other examples might be recent crackdowns on perpetual tourism, and parking at the BCP.

Concerning medications and pharmaceuticals, there have been recent busts of both real and fake medications entering the country for resale, so my guess is that authorities are tightening up on enforcement of procedures in response.

 

This is totally understandable. But I and many others don't understand the shotgun approach to the immigration and medication problems. The lack of notice too causes hardship.

I've never subscribed to the cliche that we expats are "guests" of Panama; no one is putting us up. We're paying our way and paying taxes. But an important element of being a guest is the acceptance of hospitality. So even if you accept the proposition that we're guests, Panama is no longer hospitable in the way it once was. I am hopeful that this will run its course and that more level heads will prevail.

Edited by Bonnie
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Woody    60
On 6/22/2017 at 2:49 PM, Keith Woolford said:

In any number of situations here, periods of enforcing regulations to the letter generally only take place after abuse is caught. Other examples might be recent crackdowns on perpetual tourism, and parking at the BCP.

Concerning medications and pharmaceuticals, there have been recent busts of both real and fake medications entering the country for resale, so my guess is that authorities are tightening up on enforcement of procedures in response.

 

On the surface, it would seem like a reasonable explanation Keith.  But, when your meds arrive with an invoice from a reputable pharmacy with Rx # and doctors name you would think it would be a good start in verification that the meds weren't knock off.  But, that's not enough.  So, the customs agent asks for a letter from you verifying your identity, cedula, and intent to be the sole user of the meds.  You give it, and that's not enough.  So, then the customs agent asks for the prescription to be verified by a Panamanian doctor.  I don't know yet if that will be enough, but I do know b.s. when I see it.

 

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Brundageba    328

Exactly Woody...enough is enough.  Just the same we still have to deal with it until something loosens up. 

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Bonnie    409
10 hours ago, MarieElaine said:

Just another reason to move elsewhere.  I see postings about how upset the Panamanian government is about the fact that expats are leaving in droves but they continue to make it more and more difficult for us to stay.

Where have you seen such postings, Marie? This is the first I've heard about expats leaving in droves and the first I've heard about the Panamanian government being concerned about it.

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Keith Woolford    308

It's been my personal experience that folks who have made up their mind to leave an area, or are preparing to do so, are more apt to find fault or express displeasure with the place.

It doesn't seem to be unusual for us to find more than ample justification for moving to or from somewhere when the right time comes.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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5 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

It's been my personal experience that folks who have made up their mind to leave an area, or are preparing to do so, are more apt to find fault or express displeasure with the place.

It doesn't seem to be unusual for us to find more than ample justification for moving to or from somewhere when the right time comes.

I think it is just human nature for one to find ways to justify difficult decisions and then vent to relieve the stress and frustration.   I am one that is leaving Panama and while I could easily list a number of things I dislike or seemed senseless here in Panama, I am sure I could just as easily find faults in my new destination once I have lived there for an equal amount of time.   All my life I have made a major move about once every 10 years and I could easily list faults and express frustration with each location.   My personal decision to move on is based on what appears a better option both personally and financially.   While Panama finally tipped the scale for me in a different direction and while some past experiences here in Panama played a part in predicting the future, I can't say I have any great displeasure with Panama as a whole.  I could probably list just as many pros as cons.  There are certainly things I will miss here and will likely be back to visit clients and friends. 

It does feels like there are a larger number of expats leaving at this time or at least a bit more than the normal turnover we have seen each year.   I am very skeptical about how concerned Panama is about the number leaving the country.   I am sure they are more concerned with other issues and the expats leaving is probably just a side effect of other policy decisions.

If Panama teaches you anything, it is that everything changes constantly (both good & bad).  It can change at a moments notice...  or even with no notice at all.   Rules and laws here seem to be only enforced when a situation becomes untenable.   Typically enforcement is done for a short time and then, as with everything here, it changes again.  Seemingly random and sometimes without good reason to those of us that are used to laws and regulations being hard and fast.    

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JudyS    178

Panama also teaches patience.  If you can't learn to be patient about many things, you won't survive here, and you will leave.  Amazingly, a lot of things that you need to be patient and wait for eventually get done (like patching potholes in the roads, maybe even paving the roads in town - it will get done, eventually.)

Dan, I'm so sorry you're leaving.  I never met you, but you provided great service fixing my  computer problems. You did that remotely, so maybe you can also do it from Spain, or wherever you're going.  Good luck on your new adventure.

Off topic:  Why are so many people moving to Spain?  What is the attraction?  The power stays on?  What?

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MarieElaine    27

In the last year I personally know of 8 people moving to Spain and a multitude more moving back to wherever they came from.  The posting here and in ning outlining the "rumor" that Panama is going back to the 3 day border hop gave the reason that there is some alarm at the number of expats leaving the country.  

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BlueBird    6
14 hours ago, MarieElaine said:

In the last year I personally know of 8 people moving to Spain and a multitude more moving back to wherever they came from.  The posting here and in ning outlining the "rumor" that Panama is going back to the 3 day border hop gave the reason that there is some alarm at the number of expats leaving the country.  

IMO "rumor" such as the one listed here causes more confusion than solving a problem. I appreciate how postings on this web-site (Bud, Keith, Newslady especially) list the source for what is re-published here.

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Alan Nilsen    0

Bonnie,

Thanks for taking the responsibility of being our US Warden. 

Returning to the original thread, it is not clear to me if the drugs and supplements are being delayed at customs or denied entry entirely. To me, it is ridiculous that Panama’ is holding up drugs that are essential to people’s health and well being.

Whomever is drafting these regulations is out of touch with the way prescriptions are done in countries with more advanced systems.  I have not seen a paper prescription in the US for years.  My doctor simply enters into the computer system if he/she is renewing or creating a new script.  The computer sends it to my on-line pharmacy (CVS) electronically and a few days later, the drugs are mailed to me.  No paper is involved.  So it is impossible for me to give Panama’ a copy of something that does not exist.

I take about 8 vitamins and supplements.  No US doctor in his/her right mind would give me a document saying that they are a medical necessity.  When I update my doctors on what I am taking, the best that I get is a verbal statement something like, yes that helps some people or yes, it can’t hurt.  In the sue crazy US, no doctor is going to provide such a document.

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Bonnie    409
On 6/24/2017 at 2:20 PM, Alan Nilsen said:

Bonnie,

Thanks for taking the responsibility of being our US Warden. 

Returning to the original thread, it is not clear to me if the drugs and supplements are being delayed at customs or denied entry entirely. To me, it is ridiculous that Panama’ is holding up drugs that are essential to people’s health and well being.

Whomever is drafting these regulations is out of touch with the way prescriptions are done in countries with more advanced systems.  I have not seen a paper prescription in the US for years.  My doctor simply enters into the computer system if he/she is renewing or creating a new script.  The computer sends it to my on-line pharmacy (CVS) electronically and a few days later, the drugs are mailed to me.  No paper is involved.  So it is impossible for me to give Panama’ a copy of something that does not exist.

I take about 8 vitamins and supplements.  No US doctor in his/her right mind would give me a document saying that they are a medical necessity.  When I update my doctors on what I am taking, the best that I get is a verbal statement something like, yes that helps some people or yes, it can’t hurt.  In the sue crazy US, no doctor is going to provide such a document.

Thanks, Alan. I'll pass this info on to the Embassy in case they don't know. I'm hoping we will get the official word soon on what is required. The prescription requirement is just word of mouth at this point. But the delays are fact.

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Pantah    9

My EDTA has been held up over 6 wks now. No prescription needed. WTF. Multiple visits to MBE to get this processed. I am making an attempt to get healthier and they are throwing up BS roadblocks.

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Brundageba    328

I don't want to wish myself bad luck but I usually order my multivitamin supplements in 6 month batches for Bill and I.  I get a better price that way.  No doubt when customs sees a box full of the same multivit bottle they will think I'm a vitamin pusher.  It would seem if needed the recipient here could get a written prescription from a doc here to have on file along with a affidavit statement made by the client ( with Cedula # etc etc) that these items are for personal use and have that on file electronically at MBE .  A bit of an ordeal yes but it would ease the stickiness of going through the flaming hoops over and over for both MBE, the client...and as well customs that should have better things to do than to interdict vitamins and prescription medication for retirees.

Edited by Brundageba
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JohnF13    75

As I said before, the gubmint don't want to see efficiency.  You would think they might find more fulfilling endeavours.....

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Brundageba    328

Pantah

I am finding that I have had less problems with items from known common providers like AMAZON and SWANSONS vitamins.   I received a lipstick (eventually ) from a provider called PHARM PACKS and that one tube of lipstick stayed in scrutiny for over a month.  Pantah's EDTA may that white powder in a bottle that keeps them puzzling for eternity in customs.  Who knows.  I did look up EDTA on the Swanson's Health Products site and found it there.  Just an idea is to order one bottle with other innocuous products and see if it arrives.

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Pantah    9
2 hours ago, Brundageba said:

Pantah

I am finding that I have had less problems with items from known common providers like AMAZON and SWANSONS vitamins.   I received a lipstick (eventually ) from a provider called PHARM PACKS and that one tube of lipstick stayed in scrutiny for over a month.  Pantah's EDTA may that white powder in a bottle that keeps them puzzling for eternity in customs.  Who knows.  I did look up on the Swanson's Health Products site and found it there.  Just an idea is to order one bottle with other innocuous products and see if it arrives.

Good pointer for others. Amazon order, not powder.

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