How to Buy Over-the-Counter Drugs at a Pharmacy in Panama

How to Buy Over-the-Counter Drugs at a Pharmacy in Panama

If you have a prescription and are planning a move to Panama, you’re probably wondering how you’ll get your medication.

The good news is that in Panama, buying the medications you need is easier and cheaper.

On average, medicine costs much less than in high-cost healthcare nations like the United States. Plus, prescription requirements are more lenient, and you can purchase most medications over the counter.

Panama boasts hundreds of pharmacies, ranging from nationwide chains to small, independent facilities. If you live in an urban area like Panama City or David, the nearest pharmacy won’t be more than a few steps from your front door. Pharmacies are plentiful in Panamanian cities, making buying medicine a quick and convenient errand.

In this guide, I’ll discuss the ins and outs of Panamanian pharmacies. You’ll learn about the types of medications available and which ones are illegal, prescription requirements, insurance coverage, discounts on medications, the cost of common medications, the best pharmacies in Panama, and more.

Read on to discover all you need to know about purchasing medication—both prescription and over-the-counter—in Panama.

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Available Medications at Panamanian Pharmacies

Panamanian pharmacies are well-stocked and carry a wide variety of medications and health supplies.

Some chains are set up like a CVS or Walgreens in the United States, with general medications available on shelves in the front of the pharmacy and a counter in the back where pharmacists dispense stronger medicines.

Farma Value, a low-cost pharmacy in Panama
In addition to medications, you can find supplementary and beauty products in pharmacies in Panama.

Common Remedies and NSAIDs

You’ll easily find what you need at Panamanian pharmacies, as they sell a variety of common remedies including antihistamines, cold and flu treatments, pain relievers like acetaminophen, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin, and stomach relief medications.


Antibiotics are also available at any pharmacy in Panama; amoxicillin tends to be the most popular and affordable one, but there are several others too, including azithromycin and penicillin.

Psychiatric Medications

Psychiatric medications like antidepressants are sold at Panamanian pharmacies. These include Prozac, Lexapro, Effexor, and many others.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills are sold over the counter in Panama, and condoms (both male and female) can be purchased in pharmacies and supermarkets. Panamanian pharmacies carry Plan B (the morning-after pill), but a prescription is almost always required to obtain it.


Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are considered controlled substances. While available, they have stricter regulations. This is also the case for narcotics like morphine.


In addition to medications, Panamanian pharmacies sell an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and supplements.

Many sell healthcare and beauty products, too, including face wash, body lotion, foot powder, and creams for skin ailments.

Unavailable Medications in Panama

Medications containing pseudoephedrine are banned in Panama. This means that the popular decongestant Sudafed is illegal. You won’t be able to buy it at any pharmacy or even bring it into the country.

Some narcotic painkillers are available in Panama, but it’s extremely difficult to obtain an opiate prescription.

Only orthopedic or internal medicine doctors at hospitals are authorized to prescribe narcotics, and they’re often hesitant to do so. These medications can only be found at hospital pharmacies, and there’s a limit of five pills per refill. Narcotics are more expensive than other medicines; OxyContin costs US$2.77 per pill.

Other common medications that aren’t sold in Panama include Adderall, Ambien, and Trazodone (a sleeping pill and antidepressant).

If you take any medications regularly, you should research their cost and availability in Panama before your move.


Prescription Requirements

You can get a surprising number of medications over the counter in Panama.

The medications that require a prescription are usually the ones that are likely to be abused, such as strong painkillers, benzos, and sleeping pills.

Many antibiotics also require a prescription.

Other common medications that you’ll need a prescription for include insulin, Vicodin, Xanax, Ritalin, and clonazepam.

For anything else, you probably won’t need a prescription. Most depression medications are sold over the counter, as is the anticonvulsant gabapentin.

Prescription requirements may vary depending on the pharmacy. While some may require a prescription for a specific medicine, others may not.

Panamanian doctors write prescriptions on a piece of paper, which you then take to the pharmacy to request your medication. You can keep the prescription for future refills, but it’s only valid for a certain amount of time – usually six months.

After that, you’ll need to get a new prescription from a doctor.

Bringing Prescriptions to Panama

Many expats bring their prescription medicines with them when they move to Panama.

If you plan to do the same, first make sure they’re legal in Panama by contacting a local pharmacy. You’ll need a copy of your prescription and a doctor’s note that states the medication name, dosage, and that it’s for personal use.

If the medication you take is legal in Panama but it’s unavailable or too expensive to buy from a pharmacy, you can have it shipped to Panama by a mail-forwarding service like Mail Boxes Etc.

Cost of Medications in Panama

The same medicine can vary in price between pharmacies.

Check out the Farma Value and Arrocha websites to get an idea of the average prices of various medicines in Panama.

Because of the lower cost of living in Panama, in general, medications here are significantly cheaper than they are in high-cost healthcare countries like the United States.

Here is how much you can expect to pay for common medicines at Panamanian pharmacies…

  • Atorvastatin (for high cholesterol): US$19.54 for 14 (10 mg) tablets
  • Metformin (for type 2 diabetes): US$7.25 for 30 (850 mg) tablets
  • Metoprolol (for high blood pressure and heart conditions): US$43.07 for 30 (100 mg) tablets
  • Omeprazole (for heartburn and stomach ulcers): US$13.27 for 14 (20 mg) capsules
  • Prozac (an SSRI): US$8.48 for 14 (20 mg) capsules
  • Prednisone (a corticosteroid): US$15.75 for 20 (30 mg) tablets
  • Tramadol (a strong pain medicine – not an opioid): US$12 for 30 (50 mg) tablets
  • Ibuprofen: US$7.40 for 60 (200 mg) pills
  • Tamsulosin (for treating an enlarged prostate): US$34.82 for 30 (0.4 mg) capsules
  • Meloxicam (for arthritis): US$24 for 30 (15 mg) pills
  • Xanax: 24 cents per pill
  • Azithromycin: US$5.07 for one 500 mg pill
  • Fluconazole (for fungal infections): US$4.04 for one 200 mg tablet

How to Save Money on Medications

Now, here are two strategies to help you save money on medications in Panama.

Firstly, generic medications are almost always cheaper than brand names.

For example, purchasing acetaminophen pills will cost you less than buying Tylenol.

Secondly, you don’t have to purchase the entire box. You can buy the exact quantity you require at Panamanian pharmacies, even if it’s just a single pill.

Locating Pharmacies in Panama

Pharmacies are called farmacias in Spanish. You’ll find them all over Panama – from cities to small towns – in hospitals, shopping malls, grocery stores, and on the street.

Some pharmacies are set up like department stores and sell beauty and health care products, cosmetics, toys and games, school supplies, snacks, and other products in addition to medicine.

Others are much smaller and keep all their products behind the counter.

Panamanian hospitals are equipped with pharmacies where patients can pick up their prescriptions. These pharmacies are not open to the public, and you’ll need to get a prescription from a hospital doctor to use its pharmacy.

Be aware that public hospitals occasionally experience medication shortages; this does not happen in private facilities.

There are several private pharmacy chains in Panama.

These are the best places to buy medicine because they follow strict regulations, offer a wide range of products, and don’t sell expired or incorrectly dosed medication.

Independent pharmacies also exist across Panama, especially in small towns and rural areas where larger chain pharmacies may be absent.

Take extra care when visiting these pharmacies, as the staff may lack the same level of expertise, and there’s a higher risk of medications being expired.

Independent pharmacies offer a more limited variety of products compared to chain pharmacies, and prices are less predictable. However, they’re often more lenient on prescription requirements.

The following pharmacy chains are found across Panama in cities and larger towns.

These facilities offer a large selection of medications and great customer service. If you’re looking for a regular pharmacy in Panama, start here.

Farmacia Saba
You can easily find a pharmacy throughout big cities in Panama.

El Javillo

El Javillo is one of the oldest in Panama and operates more than 36 branches throughout the country, including in Panama City, Penonomé, Aguadulce, David, Boquete, Santiago, Chitré, and Las Tablas. In addition to medications, El Javillo offers an extensive assortment of natural and traditional remedies, such as herbs and plants.


Arrocha, or Farmacias Arrocha, in addition to its pharmacy services, boasts over 15 other departments, including perfumes, cosmetics, books, toys, technology, kitchen supplies, and gifts.

With over 30 branches extending from Panama City to Chame, Chitré, Colón, David, Penonomé, and beyond, Arrocha is the most versatile pharmacy in Panama.

Metro Plus

As a member of the Rey group, Metro Plus operates branches inside every Rey supermarket, as well as standalone locations. With over 30 locations across Panama, including Panama City, Chitré, Coronado, and David.

Metro Plus offers several departments, including beauty, baby care, snacks, and hygiene products, though its offerings are not as extensive as Arrocha’s.

Farma Value

Farma Value, a pharmacy chain from Central America, provides medications at the lowest prices available in Panama.

With locations in Panama City, David, Santiago, Chitré, Penonomé, Colón, Arraijan, and Chorrera, Farma Value offers numerous discounts and promotions.

Supermarket Chains

Most supermarket chains in Panama also feature their own pharmacies. Riba Smith, Super 99, Machetazo, and Romero (the main grocery store in Chiriquí) all have pharmacies that offer high-quality products and knowledgeable customer service.

Courier Services and Delivery Options

You can have medications delivered from a pharmacy to your home or office through the delivery app Pedidos Ya.

Upon opening the app, click on the “farmacias” section to view a list of available pharmacies, along with their ratings, delivery times, and costs.

Delivery times typically range from 5 to 30 minutes, with costs varying between 99 cents and US$3.

However, it’s important to note that Pedidos Ya only allows purchases of over-the-counter medications.

Pharmacy chains in Panama also offer delivery services for both over-the-counter and prescription medications. To utilize this service, visit the pharmacy’s website and look for the WhatsApp number for deliveries. You can then communicate with the pharmacy to ask about the delivery process and associated costs.

If the medicine requires a prescription, you’ll need to send a photo of your prescription via WhatsApp. Most of the time, deliveries arrive within 24 hours.

Insurance Coverage

Many Panamanian insurance plans offer coverage for prescription medications.

With a policy that covers prescription meds, you’d only be responsible for a small co-pay. The amount of the co-pay depends on the insurance policy and type of medication.

If you don’t have a local health insurance plan, you’ll need to pay for medications out of pocket. Prescription medicines can be expensive in Panama, so it’s worth buying a plan that covers medicine.


Expats who hold a Pensionado Visa are guaranteed a lifetime 10% discount on all medications, as are all residents of retirement age (55 for women and 60 for men).

Several pharmacies have a special discount on certain days of the week. For example, the pharmacy chain Metro Plus offers 25% off all medications on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Sending Medications to Panama

Medicines in Panama may be more or less expensive than they are in your home country.

Research the price of your medication in Panama and compare it with the cost of buying online and shipping to Panama. Also consider how long it will take your shipment to reach Panama.

If it’s cheaper to get medications from your home country, you can send them to Panama.

Some expats order their medications online from Amazon Pharmacy.

Mail-Forwarding Company

If you choose to ship your medications to Panama, you’ll need to first sign up for an account with a mail-forwarding company like Mail Boxes Etc. or Airbox.

Because Panama has no postal service, these companies will set you up with a P.O. Box and mailing address in a city like Miami.

Using a mail-forwarding service to receive packages in Panama is an easy process. When you order online, you’ll use the P.O. Box as your mailing address.

Once your package arrives at the forwarding address, the company will ship it to one of their offices in Panama where you can pick it up.

Such businesses charge per pound of merchandise, and the exact price per pound depends on the company, the package weight, and your plan.

Packages usually take about two weeks to reach Panama from North America.

International Courier Service

Another method for shipping your medications to Panama is with an international courier service like UPS, DHL, or FedEx. However, these services are exorbitantly expensive, making mail-forwarding services a more logical option.

Bringing Medications to Panama

It’s a good idea to take a few months’ supply of your medication when you move to Panama. Doing so will help you get by until you’re settled in the country.

There is no official limit to how much medicine you can ship or take into Panama.

However, most doctors aren’t willing or permitted to prescribe more than a year’s worth of medication at one time.

Remember to leave all medication in its original packaging, to keep your prescription with you or with the medicine, and to have a doctor’s note.

You could get in serious trouble for trying to import unlabeled medication into Panama, and customs won’t let it through.

I have a tree nut allergy and when I moved to Panama, I brought a year’s worth of allergy medication and EpiPens. I made sure to pack my prescription and a doctor’s note.

Since everything was clearly labeled and in its original packaging, I had no issues at customs.

Medications for Chronic Conditions

If you have a prescription or take medication regularly, it’s a good idea to start planning at least three months before your move.

The best approach would be to connect with a pharmacy in Panama to find out if the medicine you need is available and what it costs.

Metro pharmacy in Panama
If you need medications for your chronic disease, you should contact a pharmacy in advance by reaching out to them through WhatsApp to find out the cost and availability of the medications you need.

You can contact a Panamanian pharmacy by downloading WhatsApp and searching for the contact number on the pharmacy’s website (remember that WhatsApp numbers in Panama have four digits following the +507 prefix and always start with the number 6).

The larger chains should have someone available who can assist you in English if necessary.

Most medications in Panama cost less than their co-pay in countries with more expensive healthcare systems.

As long as the medicine is available and affordable in Panama, it’s better to buy it locally and skip the hassle of shipping from another country.

Three months before your move is also a good time to start getting quotes for Panamanian health insurance plans.

A couple of weeks before your move, ask your doctor in your home country to write you a prescription for a few months’ worth of your prescription medication to take with you to Panama.

Make sure to request the note to go alongside it and leave your medication in its original packaging.

Now, on to You

Compared to many countries in the world, it can be quite easy to buy medications in Panama. Prices are also good.

In addition to that, there are many pharmacy chains throughout the country, making it easy to buy over-the-counter medications here.

By following the tips in this article, you can transition smoothly to managing your health and medication needs in Panama.

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Gabrielle moved to Panama in 2021 after graduating from university in the United States. Shortly after settling in Panama City, she began a career in writing and has since written dozens of articles to help expats fulfill their dream of living abroad. Passionate about travel, Gabrielle enjoys sharing the places she’s visited with others through her writing.
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