Mail Order Medications in the Philippines

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medications

Mail order drugs to the Philippines?  So far we have had good luck.  We share our research and experiences. Like many older retirees everywhere, Bob takes several prescription and non-prescription medications daily.  Many of these are available at reasonable prices as generic medications at Philippine pharmacies.  Some brand name medications (such as Lipitor) are available at excellent prices because of Philippine government controls on the price of essential medications. However, one medication Bob must take, doxazosin, is very expensive in the Philippines. We have only been able to find it as very overpriced Pfizer version called Alfadil XL.  Each tablet costs P91.75, about $2.10.  Doxazosin is long out of patent and available from Costco in the U.S., about $.21.   So if Bob buys his doxazosin at Mercury Drug in the Philippines it will cost $760 per year.  If he can buy it as a generic, the would be about $75 per year, a really significant saving — and that’s  just one medication.

Since Bob has a Philippine prescription for doxazosin, in desperation, he decided to try a mail order pharmacy.  This was really an experiment to see if a Philippine prescription would be honored, if the medications would make it through Philippine customs without excessive fees, whether they would actually arrive and whether the quality was acceptable.

The Internet is full of highly dubious online drug stores.  http://www.pharmacychecker.com/ list lots of options.  Many of these purport to be Canadian pharmacies, but most drugs are shipped to you by various “affiliates” around the world.  I decided to try http://www.canadadrugs.com Canada Drugs require prescriptions and does sell any controlled drugs. Canada Drugs offers free shipping worldwide.  Bob placed a $150.00 order.  Some of Canada Drugs prescriptions are filled from the U.S.A., some from the UK and other countries.  Bob paid by credit card.  Canada Drug stated that the credit card would not be charged until the shipment actually shipped.  After Canada Drugs received our online order, they contacted us by email to fax my prescriptions to their Manitoba offices and to mail my prescriptions to the U.S.for the drugs which would be shipped from the U.S.  I did the mailing and faxing as directed.  After a couple of weeks they contacted me to say that the U.S.-based pharmacy would not honor a Philippine prescription.  They asked if it was OK to ship from the U. K.  I said yes, but it turned out that only 4mg doxazosin was available in the U.K. whereas 8mg doxazosin was available in the U.S. at about the same price.  In effect the cost doubled to $.60 per 8mg dose but was still much less — one-third the price in the Philippines.

We received notification that my order had been shipped on December 31.  The charges appeared on our credit card shortly thereafter. Now to see if the medications would actually arrive, when would they arrive and by what carrier.

The medications arrived in two packages at the friendly, tiny post office at Tigbauan, Iloilo on January 26th.  The prescription medications had been shipped from the U.K. by Royal Mail.  The non-prescription low-dose aspirin was shipped as first class mail through the U.S. Postal Service.   I had to pay P80 in customs duty, about $2.00.  The medications themselves were labeled with a UK address but seem to be marketed by the U.K. branches of Indian drug companies Wockhardt and Medreich.  This is not a special concern to me. There’s a good chance the  generic drugs we buy in the Philippines have their origin in China or India.  My genuine Pfizer Lipitor is made in Turkey.

There’s no escaping the globalization of the pharmaceutical industry.  A recent New York Times article said, “More than 80 percent of the active ingredients for drugs sold in the United States are made abroad — mostly in plants in China and India that are rarely inspected by the F.D.A. Half of all medical devices sold in the United States are made abroad. Many kinds of antibiotics, steroids, cancer medicines and even aspirin are no longer produced in the United States, or in many cases anywhere in the Western world….Many popular over-the-counter medicines and vitamins are made almost entirely in Chinese plants that the F.D.A. has never inspected. Domestic suppliers often maintain that they test their imported ingredients rigorously, but such sampling is akin to testing a bucket of soil from a mountain, then declaring the entire mountain free of pollutants.”  So the idea of avoiding foreign imports is a chimera.  Mainly, I want to be sure that we are buying the genuine product of a reputable Indian pharmaceutical company.

If your have more than a casual interest in the globalization of drug manufacturing and what it means to consumers, see “Protecting Consumers from the Risks of Substandard and Counterfeit Drugs” by the Pew Charitable trust.

****THIS IS NEW ARTICLE YOU SHOULD READ ABOUT PRESCRIPTION DRUG QUALITY http://myphilippinelife.com/dirty-medicine-a-chilling-expose-on-an-indian-drug-giant-which-well-might-make-your-generic-lipitor/

http://www.legitscript.com is a website which evaluates online pharmacies. Since http://www.legitscript.com does not give its approval to any pharmacies outside of the U.S. and since U.S. pharmacies will not honor the prescriptions of Filipino physicians, http://www.legitscript.com is of limited value to those living outside of the U.S.  That said, a search of http://www.legitscript.com produced quite unflattering comments about CanadaDrugs.com. As a foreign pharmacy, http://www.alldaychemist.com is unapproved but there is no derogatory comments.  We’d be much happier if we could order from Costco or another U.S. based pharmacy but evidently we can’t do that because we need a prescription from a U.S. doctor.  So, expats are pretty much consigned to the wild west world of online pharmacies.  http://www.pharmacychecker.com/aboutop.asp#C6 gives some background information.

Many of the http://www.pharmacychecker.com/ listed online pharmacies say something vague about the origin of the generics they sell — something like “various generic suppliers”. Now we are buying almost all our medications from  http://www.alldaychemist.com/.  Many of the  medications sold by http://www.alldaychemist.com/ are from the large Indian pharmas such as CIPLA and Intas.     Generally we’d prefer to buy generics from one of the large Indian firms rather than a Philippine generic.  We like the fact that the All Day Chemist website tells you who manufactures its drugs.

All Day Chemist does not accept credit cards.  You have to pay through your bank account (ACH) or by check.  We have placed two large orders with  them.  At first we were a bit dubious but now  we are 100% satisfied and just hope they stay in business and figure out a way to accept credit cards.  They cut our drug costs in half.  The drugs were as advertised and fresh. Shipping to our small Philippine post office is quite fast, but expensive at $25.    In one case they made the shipment even before they deposited our check.  They seem like decent people.  Drug costs in India are controlled by the government which seems intent on making sure drugs are affordable.  All Day Chemist allows us to take advantage of those lo Indian prices while living in the Philippines.

Mail order drugs from India

Mail order drugs from India received at my local post office

So, the story seems to have a happy ending.  We calculate that we can save about $800 per year buying two of my our medications by mail order.  The others we will continue to buy at Mercury Drug.  You really have to shop around.  Some drugs such as Lipitor are quite inexpensive in the Philippines.  You’d pay twice as much for it mail order.  Figuring in shipping charges and duty, only some medications are cheaper through mail order.  If you receive your shipment via PhilPost, you’ll have to make your own assessment of the reliability of you local post office.  Ours has been excellent.

One final recommendation — have your medications shipped to the Philippines by the postal service, not one of the private carriers such as FedEx, DHL etc.  That way you probably will be charged less duty.  It’s my understanding that customs duties are levied by the local customs office if the package comes through PhilPost, the Philippine postal service.  Shipments through the commercial carriers are processed by Philippine customs in Manila.  I am not sure if that is correct but I have received multiple shipments and I’m much happier with regular mail shipments.  My experience is that Manila customs is more aggressive, and in some cases unreasonable. One time they charged duty on my own forwarded mail!  Also, if you use FedEx et al. you’ll likely also be charged for the services of a customs broker.

Comments (20) Write a comment

  1. My experience learned from 3 rounds of medicine shipped from abroad to Metro Manila by EMS:
    – the package always gets held at customs
    – it’s fastest to go get it yourself immediately once it arrives in the Philippines
    – your fee will be the minimum of 112 pesos per shipment if you’re able to claim it as “supplements for personal use, maintenance quantity.”

    Here’s what has happened to us with medicine shipped to the Philippines.

    Most importantly, get the EMS tracking number from your shipper. Follow the tracking number online. I’ve found that the tracking function from the shipping country has always been more detailed than the track-and-trace function on PhilPost’s site (even though it should all be from the same source and have the same info), but you never know, so check them both each time.

    When the package arrives in the Philippines, it goes to customs. If your package is released, great, it will be delivered to you. But for us, all our packages have been immediately held by customs and require us to go get it from them, which makes me think that it must be rare to be shipped through with no inspection.

    Once you see that it’s held by customs, go to the Central Mail Exchange. You could wait for them to deliver a paper notice to your address stating that your package is being held, but there’s no advantage. As long as you have your tracking number, you can get your package. Waiting for the paper notice just adds 3 or 4 days additional before you get the package.

    For Metro Manila, it’s on Domestic Road in Pasay, near the airport. The first building you reach is the EMS customs clearing area. The times I went there are around 30-50 people waiting. It’s slow to get your package. Based on how slow they move and the fact that they do the packages in batches, I’d guess the fastest you could plan on is 1 hour if you’re lucky. We weren’t lucky. From start to finish, it took us 1.5 hours the first time, 3 hours the second time, and 2.25 hours the third time. It’s an industrial road with lots of cargo-related companies, so even if you wanted to go out, there are no stores, no restaurants, not even a 7-11 nearby; so you’ll be more or less trapped in that building, so plan for it.

    Steps when you arrive:
    – You fill out a form with the tracking number, your name, and your address. They look for the package in their storage area. That step alone can take 15 minutes to 1 hour.
    – When they’ve found it, you then provide ID to the clerk to prove that you’re the named receiver of the package. Acceptable IDs are postal ID, driver’s license, passport, or PRC ID; if not, then 2 of the following IDs: school ID, voter’s ID, company ID, TIN, SSS ID.
    – The inspection clerks go package by package, calling each person for the inspection. It can be another 15 minutes to 2 hours before he reaches yours and calls you. When he gets to you, he opens the package in front of you (you still can’t touch it yet). He inspects everything. If he thinks it doesn’t need any duties, then he passes the customs form to the managing inspector. The boss checks it over as well, then stamps that your package passes. If the first officer or the manager thinks duties should be paid, then you get called into the back office to work on the payment deal.
    – Eventually, you go to the clerk to make payment. The minimum is 112 pesos for handling. You have to pay that fee even if there is no tax duty. If there is a tax duty assessed, then you pay that in addition.
    – You give the payment slip to the first inspecting clerk. He gives you the package.
    – You’re still not done. You have to do a final inspection on leaving the building, where guards record your package and the payment information.

    I found that the assessment of tax duty if highly negotiable, if you know what I mean. Best advice I’ve found is to have the shipper of your package write clearly on the label one of the classifications that is duty-free into Philippines. For medicine, the category we’ve used with no problems is “health-care supplement for personal use, maintenance quantity.” It’s not a lie – the medicine really truly is for my personal use and it really is maintenance quantity – but we find that using those exact words of customs regulations makes the whole process faster than wasting time explaining to a clerk that 300mg of whatever medicine taken at 10 mg per day is maintenance quantity, then having to explain it all over again to a manager and the manager’s manager, etc. Easier to just have it already written in a format which makes it fast for him to check a box and be done with it.

    If you don’t want to go to the Pasay office to collect it yourself, you could have someone go for you. Just need a photocopy of your valid ID and an authorization letter. It doesn’t have to be a licensed customs broker. Anyone who has valid ID can go for you to pick it up.

    Reply

    • Thank you very much for sharing your detailed experiences and suggestions about medicines shipped to Manila. We have no such complications at our rural post office. The EMS shipments arrive at the post office, we pay P112 and that’s it.

      Reply

  2. i have severe back pain i was on noco,s in the us but ran out about a year ago my back has tormebnted me at times severe i dont know where i could get something strong enough to help me rest paniqui tarlac 09208119197

    Reply

    • You will not be able to buy narcotic pain medications by mail order. You will have to see a pain specialist who can prescribe appropriate medication for your pain. Good luck.

      Reply

  3. I noticed that you take Lipitor. I started taking Cayenne pepper and fish oil capsules and my doctor lowered my Lipitor prescription from 20mg daily to 10mg 5 days a week.

    I take the cayenne pepper mixed in tomato juice at breakfast and the fish oil capsules with each meal.

    If you start to try the cayenne pepper, I would suggest you start slowly and gradually build up the amount. I use 2-3 shakes from the bottle in a cup of juice.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply

  4. Thanks for this informative article! I left home (Vancouver Canada) forgetting to bring enough Mavik (HBP). Now it seems I have to see a Doctor here in Dasmarinas, Cavite for a prescription and get enough meds for the next six month. Thanks again.
    BTW, discovered this sight looking for online pharmacy here in PI. No such thing I guess?

    Reply

    • Donnie,

      I am not sure you will find trandolapril in the Philippines. You don’t need a prescription. Just write down the drug name and dosage and go to Mercury Drug to see if it’s available. If so they will sell it to you without a prescription. If not, you may have to go to a cardiologist for help to find an ACE inhibitor that is available in the Philippines. Many are. I take enalapril every day.

      Good luck!

      Reply

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  10. Hello Robert

    One of my doctors (here in USA) recommended Global Pharmacy Canada for medications. The drug are sent from India and the most you can get is a ninety-day supply. I have not used this service, but you might want to investigate it. Robert

    Reply

  11. Buying drugs from online pharmacies.

    I have bought drugs from online pharmacy 4RX.com in the past. They get good internet reviews and appear to be one of the most popular online pharmacies. They supply Doxozosin. My only problem was that I began to receive a lot of spam emails after I ordered from them – not for probucts associated with them. Hopefully this doesn’t happen anymore. I have been reluctant up to now to trust the Philippine postal service. But I may give it one try and hope for the best.
    Would appreciate any relevant comments/feedback.

    Reply

    • Hi Edgar,

      We have had excellent luck with the Iloilo area post offices. But, when my wife lived in Lucena City, things did not get through. Maybe it’s better now. I hear that customs duties are less going through the postal service than using DHL or FedEx. What’s your experience with that?

      Bob and Carol

      Reply

  12. nice to hear that bob still there. been to long. been waiting for him to post last jan. was he sick? tnx.

    Reply

  13. always great to know, Friend…stay as healthy as you can!! we are trying hard to avoid broken bones as we traverse icy streets here. never forget the sound of scraping ice from winshields and windows…the sound of snowplows and salt spreaders, snowblowers, and pf the lowly shovels on pavements…that will make Tigbauan more of your heaven on earth…

    Reply

  14. Hi Carol,

    thanks for that informative update. I am currently spending a bit more than I want yo on some maintenance drugs, but not nearly as bad as it might be, so I have been lazy about seeking more sources. I’m sure this article will be a big help to many.

    Reply

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