Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The pharmacy lottery

I may be repeating myself, but it is important to do some comparison shopping when it comes to buying prescription drugs at pharmacies here in Brazil.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved here was that there is a pharmacy on practically EVERY corner.  There are more pharmacies here in Niterói than there are Starbucks in San Francisco.  Seriously.  Every corner.

The really weird thing for my US sensibility is that the prices of normal prescription drugs vary WILDLY from pharmacy to pharmacy.  Really – WILDLY.

Recently I needed to fill a prescription for an anti-bacterial regimen drug, plus an add-on drug to seal the deal.

I went to 8 different pharmacies (partly because some did not have what I wanted in stock and partly to compare prices).

Complex drug number one varied in price from R$121 to R$165.

Simple drug number two varied in price from R$23 to R$56.

All were the generic versions of the drugs.

So in the end I paid R$144 (including a free delivery) rather than a possible R$221.  That’s a R$77 difference.  What’s up with that?

You gotta shop around.


Nina said...

That's funny. Ricardo and I just had a discussion about this, he insisted that pharmacy prices were regulated by the government and there was no need for shopping around. Now I have evidence.

Jim said...

Nina - the "Pacheco" pharmacy consistently has low priced medicine. And don't be afraid to ask for a discount -- it often gets you an even lower price.

The Reader said...

Okay, that is crazy!

I've not tried shopping around yet....I guess we should. We usually hit whatever pharmacy is inside Carrefour (though we used to frequent the Drogasil that was next door to our apartment, before we moved out of the apartment).

I'll have to remember to shop around next time. I wonder if my foreigner's accent is decent enough to allow me to shop around via phone call rather than driving all over to check prices??

Gil and Ray said...


I shop around for EVERYTHING in Brazil.
YES, Pharmacies vary greatly in price.
The smart thing to do is to go to a pharmacy in a poor neighborhood, the prices will certainly be MUCH LOWER!
Other products have great variation in price as well...always worth shopping around.