Ways to get medicine for chronic conditions

I have to take 4 medicines on a daily basis to treat various chronic conditions. In the US these are all prescriptions medicines but our health insurance has an online pharmacy which ships to our door. So I only have to actually go to the pharmacy for temporary conditions. Hen fang bian.

I’ve arrived in Taiwan last month and will be here for another 8 months. Last month, I needed a drug renewed so I went to the hospital and got things taken care of that way. At that time, I received one month’s worth of medicine. A local friend suggested that I do not take more because she wanted to check whether I was eligible for the national insurance, etc. etc. (I’ve since found out that I won’t be eligible until I’ve been 4 months in Taiwan.) Anyway, I’ve left there with my medicine but now I realize that I don’t really have a prescription. I have a bag of medicine with instructions printed on it but there is nothing which says that I can get more of this medicine.

I’ve searched the forum and found several questions of the form “do I need a prescription for medicine X” to which the answer was “no, you can just ask the pharmacist for it”.

So some questions come to mind:

  1. Is it the case that for most medicines, even those which require a prescription in the US, you can just go to the pharmacy and get it without a prescription? (I’m inferring, perhaps incorrectly, from the various posts I saw on the forum.)

  2. If there is a medicine I need a prescription for, what is the best way to minimize my trips to the doctor? In the US, I can easily get a doctor to give me a prescription which will give me 90 days or more of medicine. However, when I went to the hospital they gave me 28 days of medicine and that’s it, no prescription. Do I need to specifically ask for a prescription?

  3. Is there a reputable Taiwanese pharmacy which ships? That would really be the most convenient for me, I think.

Thanks a lot. I presume other people with chronic conditions have had to cross this bridge and will be able to offer advice.

Here’s my experience from 6 years of going to the hospital once a month. There are no pharmacies per se in Taiwan. I did the same thing you did when I first came here, expecting to get a prescription and get it filled somewhere else. For all but the most basic stuff, the hospital is the pharmacy. Since the doctors are paid by the government, for all intents and purposes, it’s in their best interest to get you to come back as often as you can. So, for stuff I’d get in the US that was good for 3 months, here it’s back every 28 days for more. If I have a cold or something minor and go to a clinic, they give me drugs for three days, then I have to go back. This is how my Taiwanese wife explained it to me, at least.

‘Drugstores’ here only sell what we’d call medical supplies (and yucky Chinese medicine) back ‘home’.

If I were you I’d look again into getting into the National Health. It made a difference of NT3400 vs NT600 on one prescription alone. It’s one of the truly great things about living here vs the States.

while some meds that you would only get on prescription in the US are available over the counter here, like some antibiotics, i suspect that most of those that you need are still going to be prescription-only medications.

if you get them from a hospital, then you may receive no follow-up script. the script is actually often given to you in the hospital, and then you take that to the pharmacy counter and exchange it for drugs. i am not sure if that happens in all cases, though.

in some instances, you can get a page with three repeats on it. each time will necessitate going to the hospital to get the drugs (usually once a month or so) and they stamp that section to show it has been used. if you have national health insurance, then you can get the successive orders filled by a travelling pharmacist who will deliver to your apartment building, and take the script and a copy of your health card as payment (they get reimbursed from the govt). until you get a health card, that option is unavailable to you.

there are pharmacies around too, despite bokonon’s experience (NOT Cosmed or Watsons, but real pharmacies, usually very small stores), that will fill the scripts for you, even without a card, but they will charge you. you do not have to fill the script at the hospital pharmacy either, but they prefer to do so as they actually operate these pharmacies on a commercial basis and charge the govt and you for the drugs that they can sometimes get much cheaper. there have been several scandals uncovered that concern this arrangement.

there are also many issues with brand substitution, etc that differ considerably from the USA. another thing is the woeful precautions they issue drugs with: pre-opened packs, no information sheet supplied, etc. if you get pills from a local doctor, they will normally come in a strip arrangement of small sachets, one sachet for each day, with ALL the pills for that day in one sachet, often many types mixed together, with no identifying information at all as to what the medication actually is, which pill is which, and whether or not they actually need to be taken with, without, before, after food, etc. disrespectful of the patient at best, dangerous at worst. antibiotics are never given for long enough either (normally get three or four days worth, rather than the recommended regime of 8 days or so) to save costs to the doctor, who profits handsomely off these arrangements.

Docts here want to see your face every time you need medication -because of hoarding cases, especially with elderly people. Hence, for my allergies, I just go once a month to the doc and he prescribes a month’s worth. For a cold, they wil give you 3 or 4 days tops, then you go again, and again, and…

I don’t know where you live, buty in my neighborhood we have pharmacies working up to 10 or 11 pm, and 24 hours. Delivery? Maybe, but I think they’ll rather see you. However, while certain medications we take for granted need presciption, while others that are truly dangerous do not (??!!), when they insist on the paper, they really do.

Thanks everyone for the responses. From what I’m reading I guess I next time I go to the hospital I should insist on a “3 repeats” script or something like that because having to see the darn doctor every time is a waste of resources.

[quote=“Icon”]
I don’t know where you live, buty in my neighborhood we have pharmacies working up to 10 or 11 pm, and 24 hours. Delivery? Maybe, but I think they’ll rather see you. However, while certain medications we take for granted need presciption, while others that are truly dangerous do not (??!!), when they insist on the paper, they really do.[/quote]

I’m at 法鼓山 which is near 金山 in 台北 county. “Going to the pharmacy” in my case means “going to town”, basically. Not difficult but a bit more involved than walking up a few blocks.

[quote=“lemur”]Thanks everyone for the responses. From what I’m reading I guess I next time I go to the hospital I should insist on a “3 repeats” script or something like that because having to see the darn doctor every time is a waste of resources.

[quote=“Icon”]
I don’t know where you live, buty in my neighborhood we have pharmacies working up to 10 or 11 pm, and 24 hours. Delivery? Maybe, but I think they’ll rather see you. However, while certain medications we take for granted need presciption, while others that are truly dangerous do not (??!!), when they insist on the paper, they really do.[/quote]

I’m at 法鼓山 which is near 金山 in 台北 county. “Going to the pharmacy” in my case means “going to town”, basically. Not difficult but a bit more involved than walking up a few blocks.[/quote]

Lemur, as I said, the doctors have their reasons not to hand out “repeats” so readily. In the past, there was serious hoarding and even fraud, hence such regulations stipulating they need to see your lovely face. Unfortunately, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Yep, here in Taipei City medicines are no big issue. I can see how in your side of town that is a bit -quite- problematic. I mean, I only have to go downstairs, not walk a few blocks. But I would give anything for your views and the lovely mountain air.

I heard you but urodacus also said it is possible to get repeats so I’m going to try and see how it goes.

[quote=“Icon”]
Yep, here in Taipei City medicines are no big issue. I can see how in your side of town that is a bit -quite- problematic. I mean, I only have to go downstairs, not walk a few blocks. But I would give anything for your views and the lovely mountain air.[/quote]

The view and the air are quite lovely that’s for sure. And I’m a bit of a recluse who likes tranquility so I’m quite satisfied with the atmosphere here. The remoteness is a bit of a problem sometimes though.

Yep, Lemur, what I meant is that you would have to use all your charm and bait your eyes, of course, explaining your situation also helps. :smiley:

Any homes available for rent up there? Got a diggie who would love a garden.

Ok, so I went to the hospital. Lessons learned:

  1. It was absolutely easy to get 3 months of medicine. I barely said that I’d rather not come every month to get more medicine and the doc right away said ok, I’ll give you a prescription for 90 days of medicine.

  2. Always check the darn dosage before leaving the hospital. Now I’m in a big mess because I did not realize the doc gave me a prescription for 10mg tablets instead of 80mg. It is the first time in my life this happens. Live and learn, as they say.

  3. Whether pharmacies in Jinshan will carry Lipitor is hit or miss but the pharmacy we found that carried it did not care whether I had a prescription or not.

  4. Lipitor is quite expensive here. I can get partial reimbursement from my insurance co but that’s going to be a pain in the posterior because of all the paperwork to fill (and I’m expecting they find some problem anyway).

I guess that’s about it.

Icon, sorry, I know nothing about the real estate market around Jinshan.