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this may seem like an extreme example, you don’t end up with extra medicine that you don’t need this way that goes out of date.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.

11 thoughts on “Pharmacies and Prescriptions in Costa Rica

  1. I am planning a trip to Costa Rica next Year. I am a diabetic. My wife has thyriod trouble and uses synthroid. My son takes psycotic med’s.

    Does Costra Rica have American Drug Pharmacies there ???
    Are Diabetic, Thyroid and Psycotic drugs readily available there.
    In advance, thanks for the info.

  2. Levothyroid a type of synthroid is available in Costa Rica I know. It is readily available. I do not have first hand knowledge of diabetic and psycotic medication.

    I recommend bringing your medicine in the original box to a pharmacist. They may have the same medication or a Spanish equivalent. You can use a drug reference guide or the internet to double check the Spanish equivalent.

    As far as I know no American Pharmacy Chains exist in Costa Rica. But I like the pharmacies in Costa Rica better in many ways than in the U.S. You will find the pharmacist very knowledgeable and many, if not most have a doctor on site that can help with your questions. Many pharmacies, even in the villages will have someone available that can speak English or at least take your medicine with the label and look up the equivalent.

  3. Do the Farmacias carry Enbrel? I have Psoriatic Arthritis and I will be going to Costa Rica in the summer. I prefer to not take my 6 months medication on the plane as it has to be stored at a certain cold temperature.


    • I truly do not know all the medications that they carry. They most likely carry something like that or a similar drug. If you absolutely need that drug, I would bring it with you or contact a pharmacy near where you will be staying to see if they carry it.

  4. Do you carry Ambien or a generic form over the counter in Costa Rica? I am going to move there and want to know. I need to know if I need a perscription or can I just buy it from the pharmacy? Thank you

    • Your best bet is to contact a pharmacy near where you are staying. My guess is they may have some generic form of Ambien. But to be safe I would bring it.

  5. Take your medicines or the names and dosages of your medicines into a pharmacist. When I did this the pharmacist spent quite some time with me finding the perfect equivalent for the medicines. I found them to be very helpful.

  6. Great site, THANKS!

    I’m planning a trip to Costa Rica and would like to get Asthma Inhalers for my chronic asthma and may need a sleep aid. What will i need to do and what type sleep aid can i get?


  7. having difficulty purchasing my add meds very very expensive can i obtain them there for less it is called d-amphetemine sulfate 20 mgm tablets and if so how would i do so correctly every month i take 40mgm every day.

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