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Mexican Pharmacist's Empire Growing

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The rest of the article gets into politics, so I am avoiding that part.







Associated Press Writer


MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Victor Gonzalez sells cheap medicine and health care to Mexico's poor, and it has made him very rich.


In just eight years, his chain of Farmacias Similares, or Similar Pharmacies, has grown from a single store in Mexico City to 3,239 across Mexico and is spreading throughout Central America as well as Argentina, Ecuador and Chile. A pharmacy opened in the Peruvian capital of Lima on July 29, and Colombia is next.


His catchy advertising - a cartoon doctor and an army of scantily clad models - has made the 58-year-old Gonzalez a household name. His slogan is "The Same, Only Cheaper."


Now the recovering alcoholic and self-professed womanizer wants to translate his popularity into a run for president, though the law is against him, as is most conventional wisdom.

Gonzalez refuses to divulge his net worth, joking in an interview, "If I tell you, they'll come kidnap me." But his eight companies, manufacturing, transporting or selling pharmaceuticals, generated around $400 million in sales last year. His group claims to control one-quarter of Mexico's $9 billion drug industry.


Gonzalez sells Mexican-made generic medicines at prices up to 80 percent lower than those of brand-name prescription drugs.


Bayer Corp.'s Cipro, which became famous as an antidote during the post-9/11 anthrax scare, is a potent antibiotic commonly prescribed here for everything from stomach ailments to respiratory infections. It costs $24 to $28 for a box of eight in regular pharmacies. The Farmacias Similares equivalent costs as little as $4.

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