±A - Join Our Community

Learn from the experiences of other expats and make new friends in our disccussion forums and Facebook groups

±A - Cigna

±A - Read Our Guide

The Expat Focus Guide to Moving Abroad contains everything you need to know when planning an international relocation available now, completely free

±A - Compare Quotes and Save

Insurance, FX and international movers

±A - Listen to the Podcast

The Expat Focus podcast features interviews with expats living abroad and service providers meeting their needs subscribe today!

±A - Expert Financial

From our tax, investment and FX partners

±A - ExpatFocus Partners

Expat Focus Partners

Become a Partner. Click Here.

Prescriptions / Medications

Panama - Prescriptions / Medications

When you need to get medication in Panama, you will often find it is easier than in your home country. The costs for prescriptions are low and those who contribute to the social security system in the country can get them for nothing. There are many drugs which are available over the counter in Panama which would require a prescription in the US or the UK. If you are in need of regular medication, talk to your pharmacist when you arrive in Panama and find out if you need a prescription to obtain them. One of the reasons for this is that if you need to go to the doctor to get a prescription then you will be taking time off work, which you may not need to do, so many items are available over the counter. Pharmacies are known as farmacias in Panama.

Those who do need to pay for prescriptions will find the cost low, as many drugs manufacturers realize that they need to price their products for the market. Very few people in Panama can afford to pay a lot of money for a prescription. If you do need to pay for a prescription you will find that costs are around a third of those charged in the US and those who are in the country on one of the retired persons programmes can get a further 10% reduction in fees. Those who need regular medication will benefit from these savings immediately.

There is no shortage of pharmacies in Panama. There are some which are part of a large chain of pharmacy stores, such as the Arrocha Farmacias, while there are small independent stores too, Panama is similar to the US and the UK in this respect. The chains are the most popular stores and these tend to be found in larger urban areas. Rural areas may have small independent pharmacies or dispense medicines through a small clinic or doctor’s surgery.

The types of drugs that are available on prescription or over the counter may seem to be a little limited, but many brand names are not available so you may need to use a generic drug instead. There are some categories of drug which are not readily available over the counter and these include antibiotics, sleeping tablets and strong pain medication. However, you are able to buy drugs such as codeine, medications for blood pressure, liver problems and allergy medications. When you need a drug for the first time, it is advisable to consult the doctor before simply buying something at the pharmacy.

One of the tips recommended for dealing with pharmacies in Panama is to know the name of the drug you want in Spanish. The pharmacist also has the facility to check if a similar drug is available when your own is not, so taking in details of medications that you have used in the past can be beneficial, as they can then advise you on a drug that will do the same job or how you can obtain the branded medication if there is no equivalent.

The Ministry of Health has the ability to influence which medications are held by the Panamanian pharmacies. There are some pharmacies which are able to order some medications in from abroad if you need something specific and there is no local equivalent. It is also possible to get some medications from a hospital pharmacy which are not available in any of the high street pharmacies. Repeat prescriptions can be filled easily and you do not need to go to the doctor to get one, you simply go back to the pharmacy and they will give you another batch of medication.

Another advantage of a Panama pharmacy is that there are no long queues and most people can pick up their medication in a matter of minutes. Most pharmacies have regular shop hours for opening times, though pharmacies in busy areas and in hospitals may offer longer hours or out of hours services.

Pharmacies in Panama are very similar to those in the US and the UK in that they do more than sell drugs. Perfumes, make-up and gifts are all big sellers at Panama pharmacies as well as a wide variety of healthcare products.

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.