Want 16 Tips for Buying Cheap Meds In Thailand?
First, let’s talk about Importing Personal meds into Thailand: Several months ago I had some medical items sent from my home country. They were held up at customs. On my first visit to the airport customs office I learned that unless I got a note from my doctor, the items would be considered commercial and I would have to pay a very hefty fee. I met with my doctor and went back to customs a couple of days later. I found that my note from him was not valid. It had to be issued by a public hospital doctor, not private. Fortunately, the customs officer took pity on me and let it go without the fee, provided I understood that I would need to present a correct note the next time. I recently ordered another shipment of the same product, and was worrying a bit, so I made an appointment with a doctor I had been to before, to ask for a letter. Since he has privileges at both RAM and a public hospital, and since I was told he would be unavailable for two weeks at the public hospital, I foolishly made the appointment at RAM, thinking he could give me a note from CM. After waiting for an hour I saw him, and learned that I would have to set up another appointment at CM hospital, and be careful to do it in the public section. Three hours after that I had my paper from the doctor. He told me there would be no charge. Lester Johnson, President, Chiang Mai Expats Club
I’m buying cheap meds in Thailand but my needs are pretty lightweight, so I turned to a friend, Greg Miller, who was injured when deep sea diving for the US Navy, and I asked him about his wonderful collection of meds and if they are really as cheap as people claim. In response, he wrote me this:
When I moved to Thailand from the US I found that buying meds here is much more relaxed. Medicines that are out of the reach of many in America because of price, or not available at all because the FDA restricts their distribution, are readily available to the public in Thailand. It’s not perfect in Thailand, but it’s a lot better than in the States. Here are 16 tips for buying cheap meds in Thailand that will save you time and money:
- If you’re coming to Thailand from the US you can save a lot of money by stocking up on your meds here. Jjust make sure you have documents when you return. It is also good to have a small supply of the “contingency drugs”, the medicine you are likely to need as things happen in the future. If you can legally buy the meds you need in the US, you can buy them in Thailand easier and much cheaper than back home.
- You will usually find both the brand name pharmaceuticals you have in the US (running typically about 10% of the cost in the US) and generic brands (could be as low as 1%). That huge price difference can make a major lifestyle difference for many Americans. Some people even save enough to pay for their trip and holiday.
- If while you are in Thailand you want to meet with a doctor to check out everything and get a legitimate local prescription, it won’t be a major investment as it is back home. I recently met with an excellent English speaking doctor at one of the leading Chiang Mai hospitals for annual heavy-duty check-up, giving me updated prescriptions for my blood pressure and thyroid ailments after giving a whole bunch of tests, and my charge for the doctor was 250Baht ($8.36 USD). And if you have a prescription already written by a US doctor, it becomes extremely simple for a Thai doctor to write a new prescription here.
- By doing a little internet search on your US medications, you can get the generic or medical name for what you are taking. You should write these down to take to Thailand because they may not be familiar with the brand name used in the US. Often the big pharmas will have a different brand name for the same product for different marketing regions. In the US where they can reap enormous profit margins, they often will have a unique brand name.
- To repeat: carrying an actual prescription — whether American or Thai — with you prevents a lot of difficulties if the medicines are discovered crossing national borders.
- Many travelers recommend only buying medicines in the pharmacies in big private hospitals. While this can certainly be a bit assuring, it should be realized that this is the most expensive place to cheap meds in Thailand (the same as in other countries as well). You will save much more if you make your purchase through independent pharmacies. They are all pretty much licensed and have licensed, educated pharmacists who are much more helpful than US pharmacists in their recommendations. Senior Thai pharmacists usually speak ‘medical English’. Most travelers have the wherewithal and savvy not to buy from street sellers, I assume.
- If you go to a Thai pharmacy and there is no air conditioning and it looks or smells bad, you may want to just make a U turn. Medicines do lose their potency in high heat. Fortunately, poor quality pharmacies are the minority. You have to be a wise consumer in Thailand (in anything you buy). And when you store meds at home, a good place to store them is in the fridge.
- Birth control pills are available over the counter in Thailand, starting at a cost of a $1 for a month’s supply. You can buy the same brand as back in the US or a generic.
- Male enhancement drugs can be much less than back home. Cialis Viagra and Levitra are available with no prescription and you will save money. There are also plenty of fakes from China (so examine the package carefully and don’t buy from street merchants or border markets).
- There are national generics from India and within Thailand. For instance, the Thai equivalent to Viagra, which is called Sidegra, seems to be just as effective (or better) than Viagra and can be purchased in 100mg versions at a fraction of the cost is the US (less than $1 ea.). On a somewhat related note, condoms in Thailand are cheap but most (American) men complain that they tend to be too small.
- Many anti-depressants, antibiotics, allergy meds, steroids, Valium and other pharmaceuticals that require an expensive doctor appointment back in the US are available over the counter in Thailand (but not always), so don’t be nervous to ask. If a prescription is required, the pharmacists can usually recommend a medical doctor that can take care of this at a minimal cost.
- Or just pop into a private clinic or hospital. You can have an appointment quickly and cheaply.
- There are also many medicines not available at all in the US that you can buy in Thailand. This does not mean that these medicines are bad for you. To introduce a new medicine into the US takes many millions of dollars and years of testing, and many companies in the world do not have the resources and inclination to go through the US process Many Chinese herbal medicines fall into this category.
- Understand that while medicines are easily and cheaply purchased in Thailand, this does not apply to vitamins and supplements. These are generally imported and taxed heavily, so you will find these to be substantially more expensive than in the US. Whenever we go back to the US we stock up on vitamins to bring back to Thailand.
- Not all meds in Thailand are cheap. There are several OTC meds easily available in the US that are considerably more expensive in Thailand. Simple pain relievers like Aleve and plain aspirin (which legally requires a prescription in Thailand) are expensive. Benadryl seems to be impossible to find in Thailand, and good ol’ Tums are very difficult to find. You also will not find Cortisone cream in Thailand, but Thai pharmacies have a generic brand of hydrocortisone cream that is very expensive. It seems that those medicines in the US that do not have a strong FDA and AMA control, the pricing and availability in the US is much better.
- Also medicines that in the US might be construed as recreational by some (as in Cannabis) are strictly forbidden in Thailand and have severe penalties in this country and throughout the region. The Drug War was initiated around the world by the US (thanks largely to Dick Nixon), and while sanity is finally starting to be applied in many places in the US, Thailand and other Asian nations have been extremely slow in easing up on this. It is wise to avoid any connection with these drugs in Southeast Asia.
Videos About Thai Pharmacies and Buying Cheap Meds in Thailand
And, just in case you’re actually sick and need to talk to a Thai pharmacist, here’s a video that teaches you the basic phrases for buying cheap meds in Thailand! (Though most Thai pharmacists speak English).
For most ailments, there’s no need to see a doctor in Thailand so long as you know a good pharmacist and a good Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Here’s the best pharmacy for Buying Cheap Meds in Thailand right in in Chiang Mai, where I live. Its owner, the pharmacist, is Khun Mum, and she really knows her meds! She’s also an excellent diagnostician and her prescriptions almost always fix the problem.
Reading on Buying Cheap Meds in Thailand
- CDC Recommends PrEP for Injection Drug Users – AIDS.gov – The study results were released yesterday by the Thai Ministry of Health and CDC. Based on these findings, CDC recommends that PrEP be considered as one of several prevention options for people in the United States at …
- The EU-Thailand FTA: What Fate For Access To Medicines? – Civil society groups in Thailand and Europe have sounded the alarm over these negotiations in the past months. We fear that access to medicines for people living in Thailand will be one of the things traded away. This will …
- Interim Guidance: Preexposure Prophylaxis for the … – The iPrEx study was conducted in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, and the United States. Eligible participants were … Participants were seen every 4 weeks for an interview, HIV testing, risk-reduction and PrEP medication adherence counseling, pill count, and dispensing of pills and condoms. Every 3 months, participants …. If HIV positive, order and document results of resistance testing and establish linkage to HIV care. If HIV negative, establish linkage …
- CDC – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – Research … – When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce …. Web Site Icon . Antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV infection in injecting drug users in Bangkok, Thailand (the Bangkok Tenofovir Study): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial · External Web Site Icon . Lancet 2013;381(9883):2083-90.
- The Great Flood of 2011, Thailand: A Firsthand Account – CDC – Blogs – Public Health Matters Blog – The Great Flood of 2011, Thailand: A Firsthand Account – Sharing our stories on preparing for and responding to public health events. … They need to set up their own taskforces and working groups in order to create an effective warning system and coordinate with one another. They should also have their own emergencies supplies on hand. A big thank you to Dr. Wongjindanon for sharing his experience with us and …
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