Self-Medicating in China

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A common dilemma for expats, especially newcomers, is how many bottles of cough syrup and packets of paracetamol to bring back after every home visit. Yi Jun Fang, Associate Pharmacy Manager at Shanghai United Family Hospital, assures us it’s not necessary to fit an entire medicine cabinet in our suitcase, especially over-the-counter medicines. “Bring sufficient supplies of essential medication, such as treatment for blood pressure, Type II diabetes or asthma, but rest as- sured, most other medicines are available here.”

Can I use my prescription from home?
Pharmacies in China cannot fill a prescription from a doctor in your home country. “For any prescription medication, you will need a new prescription from a licensed doctor in China. It’s helpful to bring your current prescription to any new doctor as a reference. Medication is usually filled by the pharmacy located within the hospital where the physician practices. Local drug stores and pharmacies on the street tend not to stock prescription medications,” said Yi Jun.

What about my preferred brands of medication?
International healthcare providers carry most of the common medi- cines used overseas, or their equivalent local brands. “There may be a more limited range of medicine strengths, oral contraceptive pills, and palatable, easy-to-eat children’s medications. There is also a strong possibility of only one of each kind of drug available,” she explains.

Yi Jun advises that certain life-saving medicines are not readily avail- able in China, like EpiPen self-injectable epinephrine kits for people at risk of anaphylactic shock, and Glucagon self-injectable kits for those at risk of hypoglycemia. Be sure to bring these items with you, if they are needed. Other specific products you may have difficulty finding include Benadryl, Capsaisin, 81mg baby aspirin, muscle rub, Tri-vi-sol, and vitamin drops for children aged 3 and under (except Vit D3 drops).

How can I safely dispose of unwanted medication?
Use medication disposal services at international clinics to avoid en- vironmental damage from flushing unused or expired medicines, or potential health risks from reselling on the black market.

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