Prices of Medical Drugs at Bumrungrad Hospital, compared to prices in local pharmacies.


Drug Prices

Staying in Thailand brings its own array of health issues. Skin problems are rather common. Personally, we seem to react sometimes excessively to bites from or contact with local insects.
So, recently one morning while drinking coffee in our favorite coffee shop, we noticed something moving about in our neck, and discovered and removed a small millipede (or was it a caterpillar?). A few hours later, we noticed pronounced itching and localized swelling in the area.
So we went to Bumrungrad Hospital. After a short visit (less than 5 minutes with the doctor) we were sent to the hospital pharmacy to receive our prescription drugs. We were given Elomet (corticosteroid ointment) at 123 baht a tube, and some Aerius tablets (antihistamines) at 60 baht a tablet.
All good and well, our little visit cost us about 1,500 baht, no problem.
We responded well to the therapy, but since it was not yet all cleared up after finishing the Aerius tablets, we decided to continue for a few more days and headed to a pharmacy nearby (South East Asia Pharmacy on Sukhumvit Road). We did not need any more Elomet (but knew its price at local pharmacies already), but purchased a supply of Aerius tablets at 23,5 baht a tablet.
A tube of Elomet costs 75-80 baht in local pharmacies.

We already knew from personal experiences, from the experience of friends and from reports online, that Bumrungrad provides medical care at a price. Our doctor's visit alone costs us 920 baht (800 baht doctor's fee, and 120 for use of 'facilities'). Similar or slightly lower prices are asked at other 'prime' hospitals such as Samitivej Hospital or Bangkok General Hospital. Smaller but less fancy hospitals like Bangkok Christian Hospital on Silom Road, will charge you around 400 baht.

However, the prices charged for medication at Bumrungrad came as a surprise.
75 baht vs. 123 baht : mark-up of 64 %.
23,5 baht vs. 60 baht : mark-up of 155 %.

We spent little money for our medication all together. However, if you are prescribed drugs for long-term use, or expensive drugs, prices will add up substantially.
We could call this price mark-up by many names : exorbitant, excessive, inappropriate. However, let us stick to calling them 'DECEPTIVE'. One does simply not expect such marked differences in prices.

Update 2014 : as part of treatment at the E.R. of Bumrungrad, the nurse covered some abrasions with a Tegaderm-Film plaster, for which the pharmacy charged 150 baht. We later got some additional (and exactly the same) plasters at a local pharmacy for 20 baht.
Interestingly, we get the impression that often the hospitals give limited supplies of certain drugs. It is almost as if the physicians feel sorry for their patients having to fork out a lot of money for drugs to can be found much cheaper outside the hospital.

The whole issue of getting prescription drugs in Thailand is rather murky. You do NOT get a prescription actually when visiting a hospital, but are referred to the hospital pharmacy. Difficult to escape paying too much for your drugs, unless you act up and become a nuisance to the nurses and doctors. Simply put, the system is inadequate.
In any case, if you need drugs for long-term use (and you have to pay for them yourself), tell your physician you can buy the medication at outside pharmacies. Just make sure, to get all the correct names of the drugs you are taking (write them down accurately, and/or take old medication strips or containers with you to the pharmacy).

If you are looking for a pharmacy outside hospitals, we again want to recommend South East Pharmacy, located close to Sukhumvit Road Soi 15.
A friend of ours purchased some Amlopine (10mg, generic version of Amlodipine, used for hypertension) there at a price of 6.5 baht per tablet. Before buying there, he had asked prices at two pharmacies on closeby Asoke Road. At one pharmacy he was quoted 11 baht, at another 15 baht per tablet. So big savings can me made in the long run, if you choose the right pharmacy.
We recommend that you always write down the exact name of the medication you want (to avoid pronunciation issues, Thais often pronounce drug names differently from what you would expect). Furthermore, we do not think that all people working at the pharmacy are trained pharmacists. So if you need to ask a question, ask for the pharmacist.