Health Care in Pakistan: What Can You Buy at the Local Pharmacy?

(Feature Photo by D Sharon Pruitt)

Several travelers have asked me about the availability of over the counter and prescription drugs in Pakistan. Pharmacies are easy to find in urban areas, and both over the counter and prescription medications are available without a doctor’s prescription. A visit to the pharmacy is quick; there is no need to drop off a prescription list to be “filled” and have to come and pick it up later. Medication in Pakistan is also much cheaper than in the United States or Europe.

Many times the brand names of medications are different in different countries. When go to the pharmacy, bring the generic name of the drug with you. The men working in the store should be able to help you find what you need. You can buy pretty much anything you may need at the local pharmacy. Read on to learn about the brand names of drugs you may need as well as great local remedies.

Cough and Cold

The one thing that I’d suggest bringing along with you would be Nyquil and Dayquil. There isn’t anything quite as strong or effective available in Pakistan. Sometimes you can find Nyquil and Dayquil in import stores (Essa Jee’s in Lahore or various shops in Islamabad), but it’s very expensive.

Local pharmacies have CofCol to ease cold symptoms. It is available in liquid form or in chewable tablets. Some pharmacies carry Coldene, which I have found to be more effective. The best local treatments for a sore throat are Strepsils cough drops (yellow is my favorite flavor) and Joshanda herbal tea. Joshanda is a local remedy that soothes a sore throat. I’ve never had anything like it; and I’ll surely be bringing a big box back to the states with me!

Locals are likely to suggest you take antibiotics, but if you’ve got a common cold there is no need for them. You can pick up vitamin C chewable pills to boost your immune system.


Zyrtec used to be available in the markets, but it disappeared in 2009. You can buy Rigix instead, which is the same generic drug. Claratin is sold under the brand name Victrin, and it is a bit more expensive than Rigix. I was prescribed Zyrtec in the U.S., and now I pay thirty times less for it here in Pakistan. Yes, thirty times less, and now I don’t have to go to the doctor every six months (with a $35 co-pay) just to get a new prescription written.

PMS & Pain Medication

The best locally available herbal treatment is Oil of the Evening Primrose Capsules. There are different brands, one is local and costs 250 rupees ($3) per bottle. Others can sell for as much as 1650 rupees, so be sure to check the price before buying. Common painkillers available are Brufen (IB Profen), Disprin (Aspirin), and Panedol.

Birth Control

Only one type of birth control pill is locally available. It is a low-dosage pill marketed as Famila. Due to government subsidies, it is super cheap. For just 30 rupees (37 cents), you can have a 3-month supply. Be careful when you visit the pharmacy, as the men working there may be a bit clueless when it comes to birth control. Once when I asked to see birth control pills, the men took out 28 packets of the morning after pill!

Condoms can also be purchased at pharmacies. There are local brands and imported Durex condoms. If you need to buy them, it’s best to send a man in to the store to make the purchase.

Other Health Care Needs

You’ll be surprised just how much is available at a local pharmacy in urban Pakistan. If there’s a certain medication that you have from home that you want to purchase, just bring in the empty bottle and ask the men at the pharmacy to try and find its equivalent. You can also buy instruments such as glucometers ($27) right at the pharmacy. Many Pakistani pharmacies in major cities are open 24-hours a day. Since prescription drugs are available without a doctor’s note, it is important to be careful when self-medicating. Be sure to consult a doctor for your health care needs in Pakistan.

11 Comments on “Health Care in Pakistan: What Can You Buy at the Local Pharmacy?

  1. I love your website and I love this article. I’ve been looking to learn more about Pakistan and its people, culture, everyday life, etc. (basically everything about it!) as I’m going to visit my boyfriend in Islamabad, and it’s been so hard to find information online. I haven’t found any site like yours, which is very sad, but I have to say thank you infinitely, Mrs. Carreiro. Also, I understand you’re pregnant and I want to wish you and your husband the best of luck on your journey of parenthood. :o)

    • Thanks Jenn! I hope you enjoy your visit to Islamabad – when are you going?

      It is quite hard to find info about Pakistan online – I started putting the Pakistan section of the site together after a lot of people emailed me asking different questions about life and travel in Pakistan.

      Happy new year to you, and hope to ‘see’ you around the blog!

      • I’m sorry for the delayed response. Actually, I friend-requested you on facebook a few days ago and explained who I am.

        Anyway, I’ve been reading up on your Pakistan and other travel-related articles to get some tips for my upcoming trip. I especially like the info about Emergency preparedness. I’m going to send in my Pakistan visiting visa application within a few days and I hope to travel there in approximately 3-4 weeks. There are so many things to do and buy that I’ve certainly become overwhelmed! I’m currently writing a shopping list of items I’ll need for the trip and it’s so easy to forget things. Sorry for the babbling – I’m a bit stressed out. :o)

        On a happier note, Congratulations on the birth of your son. He certainly is a cutie!

        And, thanks again for publishing these articles. They’re helping me tremendously!

        • Jenn,

          Hope your trip goes well! Did you get the visa you needed? Hope your trip wasn’t/isn’t too stressful. Most things you can buy in Pakistan as long as you know where to look, so if you forget stuff you should be ok. Feel free to email me if you have any specific questions about where to buy stuff in Lahore.

  2. I just got my visa today! To be honest, I’m feeling lost – not sure of exactly what to bring, but I will figure things out and be okay. Thanks for offering to give advice. I appreciate it!

  3. Thanks for that info, but with the Davis case fiasco, my boyfriend feels it will be too dangerous for me to visit there now. I think we’ll be meeting and staying in Dubai for awhile. We have yet to decide everything, as this Davis situation just came to a head with his release – I’m sure you’re aware of the details – yesterday. :o( I’m very upset about this, but what can I do? Not much, I think. I hope I can go there sometime “soon”, though.

    • Sorry to hear you won’t be able to make it! But yes, it’s best to trust your boyfriend and his family’s judgment. I haven’t been following the Davis thing too much (our baby is six weeks old and I’m hardly getting time to eat, shower and check email!) but looks like a mess of a situation. Hope you have a good trip to Dubai! I wasn’t a huge fan of the city, but you can enjoy beach weather in March or indoor snow skiing. : )

  4. Thank you so much. I have been to Dubai once before in July and couldn’t believe the heat. I’m a New England girl — what can I say except I thank God for A/C! :o) ….Now my boyfriend and I are thinking of moving there. He’s lived there before and has said he thinks I won’t like living in Pakistan after a month or so. The plan is to meet in 2-4 weeks, so please wish me luck!!!! Anyway, thanks again. Big smiles.

  5. Although the comments were not related to the page (medicine and local pharmacy) but … @Jess, How did your trip go? I hope all had been unexpectedly safe.
    Now at least you can let others know so they may feel comfortable too.

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