Drug Prices in the Philippines

Drug Prices in the Philippines

Philippine Drug Price Comparison. This is nothing close to a comprehensive drug price comparison. We are just giving the prices we’d have to pay at Mercury Drug where we buy most of our medications, and comparable prices from a source in India and from COSTCO, the big U.S. retail chain. The Mercury prices are converted from Philippine pesos to U.S. dollars at 42-1. With two exceptions, (Lipitor and Glucophage Metformin from Mercury) all are generic medications. We don’t know the origin of the Costco generics but we assume that they are all FDA approved. Additionally Costco has a good reputation for quality products. We would not hesitate to buy from them and wish we could, but Costco and other US pharmacies will only accept prescriptions from U.S. licensed physicians. You can check the price of your own medications at Costco’s website http://www2.costco.com/Pharmacy/DrugInformation.aspx?p=1

The medications listed from Mercury Drugs are all generics, but are not necessarily the cheapest available. Generally we choose Philippine generics from recognized manufacturers we have a certain confidence in — for example United Labs. Sometimes, there are somewhat cheaper generics available from Mercury, but we don’t buy them. Also, much cheaper generics are available from various sellers in the Philippines. We generally don’t buy them because we just don’t have confidence in them.  That said, we have tried some and they seem to be fine.  Mercury prices include all taxes.

The Indian drug prices are from a website which sells drugs through mail order.  All are represented to be from big Indian pharmaceutical firms such as Cipla, Torrent, Intas, etc.  The prices are more or less in line with prices on generics in the U.S., but generally much less than prices in the Philippines.  In addition, the makers are known pharmaceutical firms.  These two factors were enticing;  inexpensive drugs from recognized firms.  But, there were reasons for caution.  The online pharmacy, http://www.alldaychemist.com (ADC) does not accept credit cards.  You have to pay with an eCheck which means giving ADC your bank account number.  They do not, and perhaps cannot accept credit cards. Still, one of my drugs was 40 cents at ADC and $1.04 at Mercury.  In addition, the drug from ADC was made by Intas, an Indian drug maker with a good reputation.  The Mercury version was also from India but from a smaller, lesser-known manufacturer.  I decided to give ADC a trial run.  Would my bank account number be misused?  Would the medications arrive?  Would they be genuine?  Would they work?  Regarding the “would they work” issue, that’s pretty easy.  If I took them and they did  not work, I’d know it right away.

So I placed an order with ADC.  One downside of ADC is that they charge a fixed $25 shipping fee, so you have to order enough quantity to realize the savings over buying locally.  After I ordered, the correct amount was debited from my U.S.  The medications arrived at my local Philippine post office in less than three weeks. They appeared to be Intas, as ordered and they were fresh.  I ordered them in September 2012.  They had been manufactured in Feb. 2012 and had a Jan. 2015 expiry.  The next question is would they work.  Happily, I can now yes.  If these drugs were fake, because of my medical condition, I’d know it within 24 hours.  Not only do they work, they seem more effective than the version I bought from Mercury.

We have also purchased mail order drugs from CanadaDrugs.com  as we have related in other posts.  We has no problems with them.  Canada Drugs offers free shipping and accepts prescriptions from Philippine physicians.  For smaller quantities, the free shipping may save money.  The drugs we have gotten from Canada Drugs mostly seem to be of Indian origin.

Not everyone will be comfortable with mail order drugs.  In fact, many Filipinos and expats only buy brand name, big pharma medications (Merck, Pfizer etc)  in the Philippines because they don’t trust “local” generics.  There are cards available from Philippine physicians which give lower prices on certain popular name brand medications.  For example, Pfizer offers a 30% discount in Lipitor (and other drugs) with their “Sulit” cards.

Medications as received from ADC by mail order

Since both Carol and take multiple medications and have a limited budget, we, of necessity, have to be careful with our spending.  Last year we spent about $1,500 on drugs, mostly generics.  This year it will be more.  If we only bought name brand drugs, it would probably be twice that amount.  If we can save $500 or more annually on our medications, we will.  Others may take fewer drugs or have a bigger income than we do and so can stick with brand name drugs.  We just present the options for our reader’s information.

Major India Mercury Mercury Costco
(Cipla etc) Drug PHP Drug USD USA
Amlodipine Besilate 5mg $0.07 16.00 $0.36 0.044
Amoxicillin 500mg generic 7.25 $0.16
Clonazepam (Rivotril) 2mg NA 11.75 $0.26
Carvedilol 12.5 generic $0.12 10.00 $0.22 $0.07
Clindamycin Dalacin C 300 mg 85.50 $2.09
Enalapril 10mg generic $0.13 10.00 $0.22 $0.11
Enalapril 20mg generic NA 12.00 $0.29 $0.11
Finasteride generic 5mg $0.40 48.75 $1.08 $0.21
Finasteride+Tamsulosin generic $0.40 43.75 $1.07 NA
Lipitor 40mg Pfizer $0.68 50.50 $1.12 $0.51
Losartan 50 mg generic $0.17 14.00 $0.34 $0.25
Metformin 500 (Glucophage XL) $0.05 13.75 $0.31 $0.07
Sertraline 50mg NA 37.75 $0.92 $0.22
Sildenafil (generic Viagra) 50mg $1.26 70.75 $1.57 NA
Tamsulosin $0.35 $0.00 $0.40
Xyzal 5mg $0.15 27.00 $0.60  $  0.03
Zinnat (cefuroxime) 500mg $2.18 69.00 $1.68 1.26
Zithromax 500mg $0.98 151.25 $3.36 3.34
Zolpedium 5mg (generic) NA 47.00 $1.04 $0.14