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.
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.