Parallel Trade, Parallel Industries: Mexican Coke™

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  • 01/11/2006

Who’d have thought there was a parallel between the illegal piracy of prescription medicines into the U.S. and a soft drink? The Wall Street Journal reports on Coca-Cola’s campaign to prevent Mexican bottlers from shipping their Coke into the U.S. This is not fake Coke, but it is exported in violation of distribution agreements into which those bottlers voluntarily entered, that restricted them to territories in Mexico. Obviously, Coca-Cola’s U.S. bottlers are upset.

In an interesting twist, the Mexican Coke is actually more expensive than the U.S. Coke, apparently because it contains cane sugar instead of corn syrup, and is sold in the old, curvy bottles instead of cans. Nevertheless, Coca-Cola wants to stop the trade because it earns a larger share of the wholesale price (versus the bottlers) in the U.S. than in Mexico.

Coca-Cola has successfully prosecuted cases of this illegal trade in its trademarked product. Coca-Cola’s enforcing its property rights is uncontroversial in America, where we believe that the inventor of a product has the right to decide how it’s sold.

Except, of course, when it comes to prescription drugs, where California Governor Schwarzenegger is the latest politician to advocate international prescription piracy. Once again we see the hypocrisy of American politicians who advocate using government power against research-based drug makers, by destroying a legal right enjoyed by competitors in all other industries.

See: Chad Terhune, “U.S. Thirst for Mexican Cola Poses Sticky Problem for Coke”, Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2005, p. 1.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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