A visit to a Nicaraguan pharmacy

In August of 2004, I went to Costa Rica on vacation, and we made a day trip into Nicaragua. One the whole, Nicaragua was probably my most favorite place on the whole trip. While we were in the country, we stopped into a Nicaraguan pharmacy. I couldn’t resist taking pictures, which frightened the pharmacist after a while.

I must have spent 20 minutes in this place, examining everything. It’s set up a like a deli: everything in glass cases, and you simply pick out what you want. No prescription necessary. It turns out that the pharmacist thought we were from the government — though I don’t think we could have looked more tourist-y if we tried). Perhaps she couldn’t fathom foreigners being so interested in a pharmacy? I don’t know. I didn’t notice this, but my girlfriend did (also a pharmacy student), and I said “farmacia estudiante” and she got very excited.

She got very excited about this, and started asking me questions about pharmacy in the United States. Alas, I don’t speak Spanish, so I was unable to answer her. That made me a little sad — this probably would have been the highlight of my trip if I had.

I asked about a couple of CIIs: Percocet, Adderall, Ritalin, etc. She didn’t have any stimulants, but she did have Percocet, which you needed a prescription for. I don’t recall if you could buy Vicodin with a script or not. I do remember seeing Tylenol with codeine, though I don’t know what the formulation was.

I ended up buying 60 tablets of alprazolam 0.5mg made by Merck, just because I could. In the US, these tablets would be under the Greenstone moniker. AKA, The Real Thing — you pharmacists know exactly what I’m talking about. This was back in 2004, and I paid about $12. The pharmacist was so happy, she gave me a student discount. (LOL) The sticker price was 234.30 Nicaraguan Cordobas, but she sold it to me for 199.50 Cordobas — about $12USD at the time. (I still have the receipt.) I took a picture of that this morning, and it’s at the bottom of this entry.

Anyway, the pharmacy was situated next to an open-air market. It was dusty, and most of the light came from the sun outside the building, which made it shaded inside, and mostly unsuitable for good pictures, and since the items were encased in glass, a flash would have reflected. These are the images that turned out satisfactorily. I wish I’d had a better camera like I do now.

[tags]Pharmacy, Nicaragua, drugs[/tags]

5 thoughts on “A visit to a Nicaraguan pharmacy

  1. Same thing on the Texas/Mexico border. I was in Eagle Pass a few years ago. We decided to cross over to Piedras Negras to be tourists. Our pharmacy experience was the same – we could (and did) buy just about anything we wanted without an RX. The difference was that the pharmacist explained to us that we needed to go to the nearby market and buy some tequila, a woven blanket, or a pottery burrow so we would have something to declare at the border. If we said “yes, we are bringing back these things” the border agent wouldn’t be suspicious that a few Americans had spent the day in Mexico but didn’t bring anything back. Worked like a charm. I even like the woven blanket and use it in the living room to keep our dog off the leather sofa.

  2. Yesss visiting an out of country pharmacy is the husband’s favorite thing to do when we go to Mexico, or elsewhere. Last time we were in TJ, we stopped by a couple major ones and chatted with a couple of the pharmacists who’s English was as good as ours. We picked up several US RX medications like you, because we could and because they were even cheaper than the wholesale prices we were paying to fill those Rx’s at home.

    The funny thing was they insisted on giving us a Professional Discount and said– anytime you need more, and are coming over– give us a call!

    It was a riot… We’ve visited them several times both in San Diego at a pharmacy conference and back in TJ.

  3. During a 2005 visit to Germany, I learned in a Berlin pharmacy that the Germans use a single, national form for prescriptions! We can dream, can’t we?

    OTC remedies are sold only in pharmacies in Germany, not in other retail stores. Pharmacies operate in Germany today similarly to the way they did in the U.S. 50 years ago—all independents, all operating on personal service, all healthcare-oriented (no toys, automotive, beverages, etc.)

    I ran out of Excedrin when I was in Berlin. I went into a pharmacy and showed the pharmacist (who could speak English; I speak no German) the empty U.S. bottle. She looked around and finally said, “What I have is ALMOST the same as this, except one ingredient.” What she showed me was aspirin, caffeine, and paracetamol, which IS the same formula as Excedrin (the amounts of each drug were about the same as in Excedrin). “Yes, it is the same. In the U.S., we call paracetamol acetaminophen. I”ll confess–I’m an American pharmacist” (grin). The product in Germany is labeled for migraine use, and is available only in 12-tablet packages. This year, in Australia, I learned that the packages are small to prevent overdose.

    All German pharmacies are required to have a complete organic chemistry laboratory on site to be able to prove the contents of their compounded products! I saw one of these. It would be the envy of any university chemistry department: separatory funnels, distillation columns, a complete set of glassware, etc. The pharmacist admitted that it was an anachronism, that they almost never use it, and wished that the requirement be repealed.

  4. That’s freakin’ crazy. I don’t think I could assay anything at this point. I mean, maybe I could figure it out, given enough time and an unlimited budget for screwups. ;) God, I hated whoreganic lab.

    We had a situation where a customer was convinced that her infant son was given the wrong dosage of omeprazole/sodium bicarb, so that was sent away and assayed by a third party. Ended up that the compound was correct, so her lawsuit was tossed. I wouldn’t want that sort of legal responsibility riding on my shoulders, which it sounds like it would be in Germany. Better to let a chemist do that, IMO.

    I’m curious if they have a handbook on how to do assays for various drugs, binders, and disintegrants? Then again, I don’t do much compounding, either. (Though I have been known to play around with various concoctions to see how they behave.)

    Come to think of it, we never studied specific dyes, binders, OR disintegrants in pharmaceutics. Hrm, I think maybe that’s more in line with the Masters in Industrial Pharmacy degree. Also, I think that sort of thing could be learned pretty easily on the job if you needed to.

    On the whole, such a lab setup seems like a phenomenal waste of money and space. If they wanted to keep the archaic rule, perhaps they could modernize it by having centralized lab where it could be done. Better a nicely-done assay than a second-rate job done by someone who doesn’t do it regularly. And the space that stuff takes up — I don’t know about you, but our pharmacies are CRAMMED full of stuff. We almost never have enough space for everything.

  5. i need a drug called neurontin to prevent seizures. is there a nicaraguan pharmacy that will mail oreder like ‘mexmed4you’ does. i want to shop proces as i am on a fixed income w/o medical insurace right now.

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