Prescription drugs

How-To: Acquire Your Basic Over-the-Counter Medication Needs In Ecuador

Navigating your medical needs is always a challenge in a new country. Ecuador’s health care system allows citizens and visitors alike to receive medications at the pharmacy with ease.

Two factors expedite the process of obtaining medication in Ecuador:

  1.  You may not need to see a doctor in order to receive prescription medication,
  2.  Regardless of whether you have insurance or not, you can go to any pharmacy, talk with the pharmacist, and they will disperse the medication immediately.

That’s right: a doctor’s note is not always required and you do not need insurance.

Over-the-counter medications are very affordable and simple to acquire. You can walk into any pharmacy and explain to the pharmacist what pain or ailment you are dealing with, and they may be able to prescribe the appropriate medication.

However, some medications do still require a prescription. Some pharmacists *may* be willing to help you out around the edges and provide it anyway without a prescription, but you shouldn’t take this as a given.

What medications are available in Ecuador?

You should be able to find most medications that you’re used to. However, they may be known by a very different name as there is a tendency to favor cheaper generic medications over the name brands you are most likely more familiar with.

A good starting point is to search the Fybeca pharmacy website as it lists many of the medicines available in Ecuador.

If you are reliant on medication, then we recommend booking a consultation with a doctor whilst on your exploratory trip. A doctor’s appointment should cost you between $35 – $50. If you’re still getting the hang of Spanish then you may want to go with a facilitator to help with the translation or book an appointment with an English-speaking doctor.

What is the Ecuadorian equivalent of my medicine?

The list below outlines the Ecuadorian brand name or generic name for the 12 most common over-the-counter needs. Use the chart to align your ailment or go-to brand with the Ecuadorian and generic equivalents.


Pain (Dolor) or Ailment (Enfermedad)

U.S. Brand

(Marca de EE.UU)

Generic Name (Nombre Generico)

Ecuadorian Brand (Marca de Ecuador)

Gas (Gas)

GAS X Simethicone

Aero-Om (chewable, masticable)

Heartburn (Acidez)

Tagamet Cimetidine

Acitip (chewable, masticable)

Antacid (Neutralizador de Acidez)

Tums Calcium Carbonate Leche de Magnesia
Diarrhea (Diarrea) Imodium Loperamide

Diaren, Nifuroxazida

Constipation (Estrenimiento)

Miralax Polyethilene Glycol Dulcolax

PMS Symptoms (Sintoma Premenstrual)

Mydol Cramp tabs

Femen Forte, Duopas

Allergies (Alergias) Zyrtec Cetirizine

Alercet

Migraines (Migrana)

Excederin Acetaminophen Buprex Migra, Migradorixina
Congestion (Congestion) Sudafed Pseudoephedrine

Neogripal

Cough (tos)

Robitussin Dextromethorphan

Tussolvin (syrup, jarabe), Atosyl (syrup, jarabe)

Runny Nose (Nariz que Moquea)

Benadryl Diphenhydramine

Fluzetrin

Chronic Pain (Dolor Cronico)

Tylenol Acetaminophen Umbral
Chronic Pain (Dolor Cronico) Advil/Motrin Ibprofen

Profinal

Chronic Pain (Dolor Cronico)

Naproxen Naproxyn, Aleve

Febrax, Apronax, Flanax

Wounds (Heridas) Neosporin Bacitracin

Lamoderm (CRM)


How do I ask the pharmacist for the right medication and dosage?

When you arrive to the pharmacy, you should be prepared to ask specific questions about the medicine, the quantity to be purchased, the dosage, and the side effects.

In Ecuador, the pharmacist will only give you the quantity of pills that you ask for, rather than giving you an entire box of the medication. Thus, you will be paying the cost per pill, not per package. You can request to purchase the whole box, but this is not customary. I would recommend bringing a piece of paper with you that states the following questions in Spanish. In doing so, the pharmacist can write down specific answers to your questions.


Questions to Ask the Pharmacist

Spanish Translation
I have __ and I would like to buy the ___ medication.

*It is customary to request the medication with its generic name or brand name.

Tengo ___ y me gustaria comprar el medicamento ____. 

How many pills would you recommend that I buy?

Cual es la cantidad de pastillas que usted me recomendia comprar?
What is the dosage of this medication, or how many pills should I take each time?

Cual es la dosificación o cuantas pastillas debo tomar a la vez?

How often should I take each dose? How many times per day should I take this dose?

Con qué frecuencia debo tomar cada dosificación? Cuántas veces debería tomar esa dosificación cada dia?

How many days should I continue taking this medication?

Por cuantos dias deberia tomar esta medicación?
Are there any side effects that I should be aware of or any food/activities that I should avoid?

Debería saber de algunos efectos secundarios, o hay algunas actividades o comida que debería evitar?


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Tips for Visits to the Fybeca Pharmacyfybeca

To improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your pharmacy trips, keep the following tips in mind:

  • If you are going to Fybeca, one of the main pharmacies in Cuenca, you should ask for a loyalty card or “Vital Card.” The card has no cost and can be acquired with a passport number or ID. The card keeps track of all of your purchases and can send you e-mail receipts. You will build up points with every purchase and will also be eligible for discounts and promotions.
  • Four days per year Fybeca offers 20% all medications. These discount days occur within March, June, September and December. If you have the loyalty card (Vital Card)you will receive an email with the dates and details of the sale as the day approaches.
  • Fybeca now has an English assistance program via telephone for all of its stores in Cuenca. You can call 098-800-1070 while at the pharmacy or from the comfort of your own home in order to speak with an English-speaking pharmacist. This program allows you to pre-order your prescriptions for pick up, or to have them delivered to your own home on the same day. If you live in the centro, there is no charge for delivery. If you live outside of centro, the delivery charge will be around $2, depending on the distance.
    • The pharmacies offer other great health-related services, such as immunizations and blood pressure measurements.

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With a little bit of preparation you can be time and cost efficient in your pharmacy visits. Prepare with knowledge of the Spanish translation of your ailment and medication desires, the right questions to ask, and take the pharmacy visit tips into consideration.

Disclaimer

The aim of this article is to arm you with the practical information required so you can obtain your medications easily in Ecuador. This is not medical advice. You should definitely be seeking advice from a registered medical professional if symptoms persist. Please avoid the temptation to self-diagnose.

8 Responses

  1. When visiting the pharmacist for cough medicine, he/she will normally ask what kind of cough you have. Is it a dry cough (seco)? Or, the type of cough that requires a expectorant/decongestant remedy (tos con flem).

  2. This is a helpful article to purchase temporary remedies for possibly serious problems…although the problem may not be serious. I think it’s important to remind readers that chronic pain, or chronic acid stomach, or chronic migraines can be a sign of a serious medical condition. A good pharmacist will ask you if you have had these symptoms for more than a week, and will refer you to a doctor for further testing if necessary. All of these medications are treating symptoms of a problem that the patient has deemed necessary to treat with medications…and the medications are not “curing” the problem, just temporarily alleviating the symptoms. If you’ve had any of the symptoms for more than a week, and/or the symptoms keep returning after you stop taking the medication, seek professional help to get to the root cause of the problem.

  3. We were told by pharmacist in Cuenca today that we needed a prescription for pseudoephedrine. She gave us an antihistamine. Have the rules changed, or do we need to see different pharmacy?

    1. I’m not familiar with the particular drug you are referring but If the pharmacist said you would need a prescription at that particular location, I would assume that’s the case in all pharmacies. You can always go to another location and see if its available. I think what you are looking for is probably a high strength decongestant so they gave you a suitable replacement without a prescription

  4. Having lived in Ecuador for just over 3 1/2 years and also having a close friend who is a doctor and surgeon here in Ecuador and being a chronically ill patient with a nurse fiance who is also Ecuadoriano, l must be critical as well as complementary of this article. Having said that, this article is a bit misleading but helpful as well. I would like to add that there are several medications that would require a prescription elsewhere that you can get here. Tramadol for instance for pain is available over the counter. And cough syrup (jarabe) is also availible with codeine. But as of January 1st some medications that previously did not require a prescription now do like Zetix for sleep. Wise move that one as it is very addictive. Great sleep medication though. Your experience will vary farmacia to famacia also. It can also depend on who is working amd what they are willing to do for you with ot without prescriptions. Some are very lazy and some are very helpful just like anywhere in the world. The chart and spanish in the article are helpful. And being prepared and having at least passible Spanish or writing down what you need in Spanish is a must. Some of the employees don’t seem to have any more training in medicine than a McDonalds order taker. And I truly don’t mean to be rude or insulting but this article should have been written by someone with medical training or experience. This is too important an issue for many expats to be vague and basic. Apologies Kelly but I took a gander at your bio on your web page and it did not indicate that you have either training or experience in medicine.
    Anyway your experience can differ greatly. Smaller towns and most cities outside of Cuenca rarely have the availablility of even over the counter products that are available in Cuenca. I do not have much experience in Guayaquil or Quito but I have traveled extensively feom the Columbian to the Peruvian borders. Oh and Tylenol is more commonly referred to as paracetamol not umbral. Ibuprofen is generally just Ibuprofen with Spanish pronunciation. A doctors visit is not only cheap and thorough in Ecuador even without insurance, (My first one lasted about 1 1/2 hours and only cost $30), so my advice is to always go see a doctor first regardless. There are many here that speak English but be wary if their English is not so good and neither is your Spanish. It is not wortg the risk. I jad one that tried to hospitalize me for 3 days for pneumonia when in fact it was only a mild alergy attack and I was fine in a couple of hours. But then again the office visit with blood tests and xrays only cost me $70. He miseead the xrays…..badly. Just sayin’ 😉 to sum it all up though folkss it’s your health don’t take risks in a country you aren’t familiar with taking advice from unqualified authors even if it’s just about aspirin. Ecuador has been really great for my health but that’s a different story. Enjoy!

  5. I was having severe allergic reaction and sent my son to get me a Fluzetrin (benadryl, according to your list above). Well that is ZYRTEC mixed with TYLENOL! sitting here, still having this allergic reaction and hoping that the 10% that zyrtec helps will be enough for this latest bout of angeioedema, an edema that causes water weight gain and inflammation int he throat, organs such as brain and heart, etc. I have to be able to find actual benadryl and soon!!! Please change the name above or remove Benadryl/Diphenhydraine from your list! This could mean a serious life or death difference to someone, possibly me.

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