Buying Over-The-Counter Medication in Thailand – What Can You Buy?
It is easy to buy certain medications over the counter at a pharmacy in Thailand, so much easier than in the US or UK, where just about every medication you need requires a prescription.
In Thailand, buying medicine is also cheap (often less than 15% of what you pay in the US) and, even if they don’t have the brand you need, there are Thai brands you can buy that do the same thing. If you’re in Thailand or planning on coming soon, it would benefit you to stock up on any medications you might need while here. To help you along, here’s an idea of what you can buy at almost any Thai pharmacy.
Antibiotics – Many antibiotics you have to get a doctor’s prescription for in the US are available over the counter in Thailand. Things like Penicillin, Ciprofloxacin, Bactrim and a whole host of other antibiotics are available over the counter. Also, even if you need an antibiotic that isn’t over the counter in Thailand, a quick (and very cheap!) visit to a doctor will get you a prescription.
Every time my parents come to visit me in Bangkok, my mother stocks up on antibiotics she might need because, at less than $4 per packet, they’re worth having in the medicine cabinet. Of course, I am not a proponent of antibiotics, rarely taking them myself as I know what the health risks are, but, if you have taken them in the past or are taking them, you might as well buy them in Thailand.
Birth Control – Birth control pills are available on the shelf at any pharmacist in Thailand. Starting at around a $3 for a month’s supply, if you take any birth control pills and are visiting Thailand, you’ll be able to get your brand here or a Thai brand that offers the same protection.
Condoms too are available at pharmacies (as well as supermarket, 7-11s etc) but, be warned, many of my Western male friends say, because Thais are shorter in stature, penis size seems to also be relative. So, if you buy a medium in the west, you’re probably likely to need a large in Thailand. (Then again, my western friends could just be bragging, right?)
Anti Depressants – Readily available over the counter, I have Thai friends who take them quite regularly when their stress levels increase because of work. Of course, you need to be careful with something like this, and really shouldn’t be self-medicating but, if you’ve had a prescription from a doctor and just need a refill, you can buy many brands of anti-depressant over the counter.
Xanax is available, Valium, Ketamine, and Zyban (almost the same as Wellbutrin) as well as several other Thai brands.
Ask the pharmacist if you’re not sure about a particular brand. In most of the larger pharmacies, the pharmacist will speak enough English to be able to help you and most of them really know their stuff. They will also tell you what’s readily available over the counter, and what you’ll have to go to a doctor to get a prescription for.
Also, be aware, some of the larger pharmacists like Boots and Watsons will tell you they’re not available without prescription in Thailand, whereas many of the smaller independently-owned Thai pharmacists stock them and sell them – over the counter.
Aspirin — Oddly, aspirin is not easy to get in large quantities in Thailand. You can buy the mini-packs of 10 pills at any pharmacy for around 18 baht but, if you take one a day as a therapy to prevent heart attacks or heart problems as recommended by many doctors in the west, you go through these packs quickly.
I have asked at several Thai pharmacies, and larger quantities of aspirin are only available by prescription. When I asked why, one pharmacist told me the general consensus in Thailand is many Thais seem to be allergic to aspirin so it is on the list of prescription drugs at higher quantities.
Who knows if that’s true but, just be warned, if you take it regularly you are better bringing it with you. Particularly as you can buy it for as cheap as $1 a bottle in the U.S. if you shop at a local dollar store.
Premarin — If you are one of the millions of women struggling with menopause symptoms, you will be happy to know Premarin is available without prescription in Thailand.
The last time my mother came to visit she stocked up with two years’ supply as, back in the U.S. with that country’s abysmal health care system, even with health insurance she was paying $130 a month for it.
Related: Why do Thais often have less problems with menopause than western women?
Here in Bangkok, Premarin is less than $10 a pack, so she got two years’ supply of the drug for less than $240. In the US, that would not have even paid for two months supply.
Just be aware, if you do want to buy Premarin, it does seem to sell out quite fast.
We had to go to five or six pharmacies over a couple of weeks’ period to be able to get the 24 packs my mother wanted as several of them were either sold out or only had a couple of packs in stock.
Coughs and Colds – Just about any cough and cold medication you can buy over the counter in Thailand. Nyquil, Dayquil and a whole host of other things are available, as well as lots of Thai brands that, in many cases, actually seem to work better than the western brands.
Most pharmacies will also carry the Chinese medications and, if you ask the pharmacist, they’ll recommend something you can take that will do the job. Also medications like Tylenol, Aspirin and Alleve are in every pharmacy.
Allergy Medicine – If you have any type of allergy, you’ll easily find medicine for it in Thailand. A friend was recently given a Thai brand similar to Tavist, and she said it did an excellent job.
Medications like Zyrtec are available over the counter and at about one tenth the cost of the US. You will also find a lot of Chinese medicine that pharmacists will give for allergies, at a fraction of the cost of medicine in the US and, again, usually more effective.
If you can’t find the medications you are looking for at a Thai pharmacy, in Bangkok you can visit Bumrungrad Hospital — one of the top hospitals in southeast Asia — and either their pharmacy will generally have it or you can see a doctor there who will give you a prescription for it or a reasonable substitute.
Don’t forget too, when you come to Thailand, make sure you also know the generic name of any medicine you might need as well as the brand name as, sometimes, it will be easier for you to find it — and cheaper! — under the generic name.
Related: How much do Thais pay for healthcare, or is it free in Thailand?