Healthcare in Panama is of a good standard, and there are numerous pharmacies across the country. You should therefore have little difficulty in accessing your prescription medication. There are restrictions on some drugs, however, as mentioned below.
What is available?
Panamanian drug laws are strict. If you have any queries about your prescription, contact immigration before you land. Take your medication with you in its original packaging, and take your prescription, too. Expats have reported difficulties in taking medication into the country in recent years.
You may find it difficult to buy antibiotics, sleeping tablets and strong pain medication over the counter, and you will need a prescription from your doctor. However, in general, pharmacies (farmacia) are well stocked, and you should be able to access your medication once you have registered with a GP. Panama spends in the region of US$620 million per annum on pharmaceuticals and has recently revised its legislation in order to cope with any critical shortages.
The country has a number of chains, such as Arrocha, Metro X and El Rey. El Rey is part of a supermarket chain that has 24-hour provision. Pharmacists in these chains are said to be particularly knowledgeable.
How much do prescriptions cost?
Medication is significantly cheaper than in the USA, and over the counter and prescription remedies will not cost you a great deal. Ask your pharmacist whether there is a generic equivalent to your brand name medication, as these are usually cheaper.
Check with your individual insurance provider to see whether your medication is covered under your policy. If your health insurance covers medication, you will need to pay upfront. Ensure that you have a receipt (facture), and send this to your insurance provider for reimbursement.
If you are an expat retiree, you can opt into one of the Panamanian national health insurance schemes voluntarily, but you may also be eligible for a pensionado discount. This will entitle you to doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. The pensionado discount applies to Panamanians, expats with a pensionado visa, and expat women who are over 55, or men who are over 60, who have a residency visa.
How to get the care you need
Make sure you register with your local GP when you arrive in Panama; you can find clinics online or in the phone book. As mentioned above, pharmacies are widely accessible. You will also find a number of independent pharmacies. In rural areas, these may dispense through clinics or doctor’s surgeries. Another option is to order your medication online. However, you should check with your doctor to see whether anything you require is on the restricted list.