Pharmacies and Prescriptions in Costa Rica

Farmacia in Costa Rica.

Farmacia in Costa Rica.

If you forget to bring your medicine on vacation, don’t worry, help may be as close as the local pharmacy.

Pharmacies called Farmacias in Costa Rica are located throughout the country.  Pharmacies have two levels of professionals, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists.

Pharmacy technicians have little training and call the pharmacist for permissions to give drugs when the pharmacist is not present. A pharmacy can be open with no pharmacist present. Pharmacists are well trained and can help you with the medicine that you need.

I met with the pharmacist when I first came to Costa Rica.  The pharmacist in our little town Doctora Diana spoke English well.  She researched each drug and found the Costa Rica equivalent. The drugs were the same, but much less expensive than in the United States.   She had a doctor’s degree and many pharmacists in Costa Rica do.

You do not need a prescription for many medications in Costa Rica. In general only antibiotics, narcotics, or psychotropic drugs need a prescription.

If you are ill, you can go to a pharmacist and get the medication that you need.  The pharmacists will advise you.  It is normally best if you go yourself if you want advice.  I remember standing behind a man who came in for medicine for his wife’s yeast infection.  He was turning bright red answering the many questions about the infection that the pharmacist was posing.

Another interesting aspect of purchasing drugs in Costa Rica is you don’t have to buy an entire package.  For example if you go into a pharmacy to purchase Tylenol, they will ask you how many pills you want.  You can purchase quantities of one or two.  They use blister packs and the pharmacists will pull the desired number of pills out of the box, count them and put them into a bag for you.  While this may seem like an extreme example, you don’t end up with extra medicine that you don’t need this way that goes out of date.

Also pharmacists can take your blood pressure and give injections.

Additionally you can find essentials like shampoo, diapers, deodorant and other items that you may have forgotten either at a grocery store or at a pharmacy.  Be aware that unless the grocery store contains a pharmacy (as they sometimes do in the central valley) you cannot purchase medication, even Tylenol there.

Going to a pharmacist and purchasing drugs assumes that you know what drugs you are currently taking and any allergies and conditions that you may have.  The burden is on you, not the doctor or pharmacist.  However, to be safe or if someone has severe symptoms you may wish to consult a doctor.  Doctors are priced quite reasonably as well in Costa Rica.

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