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Guide to Buying Over-The-Counter Medications in Thailand

Guide to Buying Over-The-Counter Medications in Thailand

Any form of illness can be a real pain, especially if you contract it while on a trip to such a beautiful tropical country such as Thailand. Fret not, though, as there are available over-the-counter drugs here that can help address your medical concerns!

Getting these medicines though, can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re not from around here. That’s why we’re here—to give you some sound advice on how you can purchase those much-needed pills when in Thailand.

How does one buy over-the-counter medications in Thailand?

DifficultyEasy ●●○○○
Number of StepsFive (5) Steps
Time requiredOne (1) whole day
Things you needA prescription from a doctor or a pharmacist

In order for you to buy pills in Thailand, you’ll need to determine the medication you need, so you may first need to talk to a doctor for more information.

Next, you can decide which pharmacy you’ll buy from, check with the pharmacist, and purchase and keep a record of the medicines.

If you want to know more, read on as we go through the step-by-step process of buying pills in Thailand.

Step 1: Determine the medication you need

First, you have to know which medications you need before you even consider buying pills here. To determine the pills you will require, you have to know which medical condition you want to address.

Now, some illnesses or conditions are pretty straightforward and plenty of over-the-counter pills are available to address them. These include coughs and colds, allergies, painkillers, and pills for birth control.

Medicines for common colds are considered generic medications and are readily available in most pharmacies. These are all grouped in with other pills such as herbal treatments and drugs for stomach ailments.

On the other hand, painkillers such as Ibuprofen and Tylenol are readily available everywhere and are very affordable. You might be surprised though that Aspirin, a common drug in the West, is often sold in small quantities and can be hard to find.

Most antibiotics can also be purchased over the counter here in Thailand. In fact, the country is so enamoured with this drug that doctors and pharmacists prescribe this pill for almost any ailment!

You might also be surprised that common antidepressants (Zoloft and Prozac) can be purchased here without any prescription while Xanax will still need to be prescribed by your doctor. Plus, all the medicines we mentioned can be purchased quite cheaply here!

You may also have chronic conditions (such as diabetes or hypertension) that you are already addressing through prescription medicines but we’ll get to that later. 

All we’re saying is that before you even consider buying medications, you need to know which condition you’re trying to address. If it’s not a common or chronic condition, you may have to proceed to step 2 and seek advice from a doctor.

A general rule of thumb to keep in mind while in Thailand, though– you don’t need a prescription for most over-the-counter drugs here. In fact, pharmacists can prescribe you medicines for very minor ailments.

Step 2: Talk to a doctor if you need more information

As we stated in the earlier portion of this guide, seeking advice from a doctor may be the best route to take if you want to find out or know more about the medical condition you want to address. However, a doctor’s appointment in Thailand can be pricey.

Some medical conditions and illnesses can be difficult to diagnose in which case, the expertise of a doctor is needed. You can talk to him or her about your symptoms and the doctor can then determine the illness you might have and the pills you need to take.

This doctor’s appointment will give you the peace of mind you need if you want to make sure that you are buying the right pills for your condition. 

Do note, though, that the doctor will charge you professional fees and will give you a prescription for the medicines you need (regardless if they’re over-the-counter or prescription drugs). 

This can make it easier for you as you simply need to bring the doctor’s prescription to the pharmacy of your choice.

Step 3: Decide which pharmacy you’ll buy from.

Once you know which medication or pills you need to buy or if a doctor already helped you identify which ones you need to purchase, it’s time for you to buy which pharmacy you’ll buy from

First, you need to know what kind of pharmacies are available here in Thailand. Basically, there are three (3) types of pharmacies to choose from– hospital pharmacies, pharmacy chains, and independent pharmacies.

1. Hospital Pharmacies

Hospital pharmacies, as the name implies, are the in-house pharmacies of Thailand hospitals. These are usually good for hospital patients but they shouldn’t be your first option when picking up generic medications as they can be quite expensive.

2. Pharmacy Chains

On the other hand, pharmacy chains can be found almost anywhere in Thailand and they can be your best bet when buying over-the-counter medication. These chains need to adhere to strict pharmaceutical standards compared to independent pharmacies.

However, just like hospital pharmacies, their pricing can be quite pricey. In addition, compared to hospital pharmacies, their selection of medicines can sometimes be limited.

Some of the more popular pharmacy chains are:

BangkokS.C. Pharmacy
Siam Pharmacy
Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO)
Chiang MaiDara Pharmacy
Peera Pharmacy
PhuketSuper Cheap
Fascino Phuket Pharmacy
PattayaFascino Medication Supermarket

3. Independent Pharmacies

Lastly, you can also try purchasing from independent pharmacies. These can be found all over the country and in fact, can sometimes be the only available option when in Thailand’s smaller islands. 

Since these are small businesses, they don’t strictly adhere to the pharmaceutical requirements of their stocks such as expiration dates and dosing. Also, you may need to shop around to find the best price among these stores as prices can vary greatly.

Step 4: Check the Medicines with the Pharmacist

Once you’ve determined which pharmacy you want to purchase your medicines from, proceed to your establishment of choice and check with the pharmacy’s on-duty pharmacist. 

You may be wondering “Why? What’s the point of checking with the pharmacist?”

Here in Thailand, you can easily purchase over-the-counter drugs at any pharmacy with ease and you don’t even need a prescription. For minor ailments, you can simply ask the pharmacist to prescribe the necessary medicines.

Getting an over-the-counter medicine is that simple. Plus, it’s also cheaper to have your drugs prescribed by the pharmacist compared to getting a prescription from a local hospital which (as we mentioned earlier) can be quite pricey.

Asking your pharmacist about the medicine you plan to purchase can also give you the option of going for either an international drug brand or a local one. Keep in mind though, that buying international drug brands can be pricier than their local equivalent.

Pharmacists here can also inform patients of which drugs are available over-the-counter and which ones will require a prescription. Some of these medicines include the following:

1. Available Medicines

Type of MedicineOver-the-Counter or Requires a Prescription?
Birth Control Pills and Prophylactics (such as condoms)Available over-the-counter
AntidepressantsSome require a prescription (Xanax)
Some are available over-the-counter (Zoloft and Prozac)
AntibioticsAvailable over-the-counter
PainkillersAvailable over-the-counter
Some (like aspirin) are often sold in limited quantities and may be hard to find
Generic Medications (herbal treatments, stomach ailments, common coughs, and colds)Available over-the-counter

2. Medicines that are Regulated or Illegal

Type of MedicineRequires a Prescription or Illegal?
Narcotics (fentanyl)Controlled and requires a prescription
Psychotropic Drugs (temazepam)Controlled and requires a prescription
Pain Medication (oxycodone)Illegal

Step 5: Purchase the Medicine and Keep a Record

Lastly, once you’ve determined which medicine you plan to purchase (local versus international and over-the-counter versus those requiring a prescription), you can then proceed and purchase the drug you need.

For most of your healthcare needs, you may be surprised that compared to other Western countries, buying medicines here in Thailand can be quite cheap. 

In fact, we observed that medicines in the country can sell for around 15% cheaper than drugs sold abroad– a great value for your money if you ask us. After purchasing your medicine, we also highly recommend that you keep a record of your purchases. 

Aside from being able to easily recall the brand and type of drug you previously bought, you can actually show your record to a doctor or pharmacist for easier and more efficient handling and management of your medical concern.

Finally, we highly recommend that you also do your research so that you can compare prices and identify the pharmacy, drug brand, and drug type that best suits your healthcare needs.

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