Profits & Politics
When you are in Asia for living or traveling, you will often notice how much of a price difference there is compared to similar western medicines. The same medicine bought in Europe or America, or bought in Asia from an Indian, Thai or Vietnamese manufacturer. Just to name a few. Many tourists wonder about the price differences and quality difference with home.
An easy example can be a thing like Viagra, especially when you visit Thailand. Why is it that pharmacies there sell the Thai version for half the price? Why is it that they even sell a gel version (Kamagra) in some Asian countries and not in western countries, while the working of it is identical?
It’s well known that big (western) pharmaceutical companies are the rulers of the health industry. They are ‘for profit’ companies who are listed on Wall Street and other stock exchanges. Their main goal is to make profit, that’s primary. Their secondary goal is your health.
To reach their primary target, higher profits and share value, they have several options or combinations. Increasing prices from a 10% to over 500% for the same medicines in a year is one method to make more profit. Other methods are influence in political decisions by lobbying (particularly in the U.S) and keeping competitors out of the market, either by take-overs or trying to keep their medicines out of the official list of legal drugs to be sold.
Then there is the profitable part of spending as little as possible on research for development of new medicines. All mentioned can be found in the media or seen in documentary’s or for example the film Dallas Buyers Club.
at Hospitals / Clinics
On this site several hospitals and/or clinics are mentioned in posts. Not much about the medicines itself. For most health issues there is a choice between Asian manufactured medicines and the identical western ones. In case you have a choice and prefer to save money, you can ask for the Asian medicines. In some cases they tell you that they only have the western ones, which they sell for more profit and are expensive. Manufactured by a Wall Street listed company and imported.
In some Asian countries, for example Nepal, when you need stitches or dressing of a wound, the doctor checks and writes down what is needed for your treatment. Then you walk out of the hospital (or send someone) to a pharmacy and buy the things needed. Needles, bandage, etc. Usually there are several pharmacies in the nearby area of a hospital. You walk back and they start working on you.
Waterproof rip off
When you are in a westernized country like Thailand, there are many private hospitals that have a waterproof system that you won’t be able to buy your medicines at any other pharmacy than the one that’s owned by the hospital. You can count on it that you walk out with a bag of seven different medicines of which four are unnecessary and all are imported and have an almost western price or higher. From the moment you walk into such a hospital you get into a computer system and your name will go in that way from department to department, until you end your visit at the pharmacy of the hospital. You won’t get to see the list of medicines prescribed until you get all handed in a bag after you paid.
They even use time tricks. In Thailand it’s not an uncommon situation that you end up with an STD (Sexual Transmitted Disease). In Bangkok it won’t be that much of an issue but go for example to a smaller place hospital and you get to hear that you need some injections but that the liquid to inject is not much available in Thailand and they have to import it. Come back in a week, but walk out right then with a bag full of imported antibiotics. Liquid for STD injections not much available in Thailand? One week later you return but the liquid hasn’t arrived, if ever even tried to get it. They suggest to put you six more full months on their antibiotics. That’s how obvious they try wasting your time and money.
A common question is if you need prescriptions for certain medicines in Asia as similar to western countries regulations. In Thailand they are quite strict at pharmacies. It will take you a tour to many pharmacies to get yourself tablets like Diazepam without prescription. You might be lucky and find a pharmacy selling you against the law for 10 baht a tablet under the table but don’t count on it.
In Nepal you can easily get medicines without prescription. Especially as foreigner. There are a lot of trustworthy Indian manufactured medicines and even Tibetan traditional medicines in some areas. In Vietnam it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to find things like Diazepam, or let’s say any of the ‘Pam’s’. In Laos it’s not a big deal either and in Cambodia you are in paradise for such medicines without prescription as a foreigner.
There are pharmacies where only Diazepam boxes are stacked behind the desk. You can buy them per box for around $12. ten strips with ten pills of 10 mg in it. Of course, single strips are available too. It might not always have the name Diazepam, but you certainly have something similar from another brand and a price which is more affordable. In many Asian countries it’s easy to get stronger medicines than you can get at home. 600 mg ibuprofen for example.
Yes, there are counterfeit medicines. What is a counterfeit product? A real $200 Nike or a $20 fake Nike? Don’t forget that the $200 Nike is also made in $20 countries like Indonesia, China, or other Asian countries. We are not supporting counterfeit neither western manufactured medicine rip offs. This is an information channel.
Medicines & Borders
Can you take a box with 10 strips of 10 mg Asian Diazepam over borders? According to official western countries regulations probably not. When you prefer to be 100% on the safe side, just don’t take it with you. Land border crossings within several south and southeast Asian countries are easy to pass with one small box of medicines and several loose strips. Even in your handbag or small backpack. Even by planes at Asian airports we never noticed that anyone got questioned about strips of medicines or even single tablets.
Many Asian Pharmacies offer medicines per day and per single tablet in order not to let their people pay a full strip of which they only need 4 tablets. It’s common that you get single tablets in a plastic ziplock bag and that could raise questions at airports. Beware of that.
In any way you travel it’s recommendable to stay on the safe side and the healthy side and consider the pro’s and con’s of taking it with you.