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Pharmacies and Medications in Brazil

By Betsy Burlingame

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: Acquaint yourself with the types of prescription drugs and pharmacy services in Brazil in advance, so you're prepared when the need arises.

Pharmacies and Medications in Brazil

Moving to a new country comes with its own set of challenges, and for expats and digital nomads considering Brazil as their new home, understanding the healthcare system, particularly the availability of prescription medications, is crucial. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to navigating pharmacies in Brazil, the need for prescriptions, the cost of medications, and other important considerations for those looking to settle in this vibrant country.

Pharmacies in Brazil

In Brazil, pharmacies, known locally as "farmácias," are widely available and can be found in every city and most towns. They range from small, independent shops to large chains, with some offering 24-hour service. Pharmacies in Brazil are typically well-stocked and staffed by knowledgeable pharmacists who can provide advice and guidance on medication. It's common for Brazilians to seek advice from pharmacists for minor health issues, and many pharmacies also offer basic health services like blood pressure monitoring and vaccinations.

Prescription Medications in Brazil

As in many countries, certain medications in Brazil require a prescription, which must be provided by a licensed healthcare professional. Controlled substances, antibiotics, and most medications for chronic conditions fall into this category. It's important for expats and digital nomads to have a valid prescription from a local doctor, as international prescriptions may not always be accepted. Additionally, it's advisable to keep medications in their original packaging, along with the prescription, to avoid any issues with customs when entering the country.

Are Prescriptions Needed for Medications in Brazil?

While prescription medications do require a prescription, there are many over-the-counter options available for common ailments such as pain relief, cold and flu, and allergies. However, regulations can differ from those in other countries, so some medications that are available over the counter elsewhere might require a prescription in Brazil. It's always best to consult with a local pharmacist or doctor if you're unsure about the medication you need.

Cost of Prescription Medications in Brazil

Prescription medications in Brazil can vary in price, with some being quite affordable, especially when compared to prices in the United States. Brazil's public healthcare system, the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), provides some medications at no cost to residents, including expats who are legally registered. However, not all medications are covered, and those not included in the SUS program can be more expensive. Many expats and digital nomads opt for private health insurance to help cover the costs of prescription medications that are not available through the SUS.

Important Considerations for Expats and Digital Nomads in Brazil

When moving to Brazil, it's important to research the availability of any specific medications you may need and consider bringing an ample supply to cover your initial stay. It's also advisable to learn some Portuguese medical terms or have a translation app handy, as not all pharmacists may be fluent in English. Keep in mind that the brand names of medications may differ in Brazil, so knowing the generic name of your medication is beneficial. Lastly, always check the expiration dates on medications, as some pharmacies may carry products that are close to or past their expiration date.

Understanding the ins and outs of obtaining prescription medications in Brazil is essential for expats and digital nomads. By familiarizing yourself with the local pharmacy system, prescription requirements, and costs, you can ensure a smoother transition to your new life in Brazil and maintain your health and well-being while enjoying all that this diverse country has to offer.

Expats Talk About Prescriptions in Brazil

"There is a pharmacy on every street corner of almost every city in Brazil so finding a pharmacy is no problem. I do take prescription medications and on my first visit with my new doctor he made it clear that the meds I was taking from the USA were out-dated and better meds were available. He switched my prescription and these meds are readily available at all the pharmacies that I have been to. It is hard to beat the USA $4.00 prescription program for a long list of certain meds. But buying the medications here have shown to be readily available and cheaper (not considering the USA $4.00 meds) than my home country," commented one expat living in Natal, Brazil.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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