Recommended Pharmacies on Sukhumvit Road and close to Silom Road, Bangkok
A pharmacy we can recommend on Sukhumvit Road is South East Pharmacy. It is the largest pharmacy in the stretch of road between Nana intersection and Asoke intersection. Its prices are very competitive (they claim to offer the wholesale price). While formerly it looked a bit decrepit looking, the pharmacy now has been renovated.
Also located on Sukhumvit road, close to Robinson Department Store is another smaller pharmacy, named KS Pharmacy, that gives better than average service and is run by pharmacist(s).
We still recommend the two pharmacies mentioned above. However, during a visit in May 2012, we noticed price increases in both of them. Some vitamines we purchased there, we found afterwards 15% cheaper closeby. At KS Pharmacy, we purchased some protein supplements at a price about 30% higher than before.
Will follow up.
We would advice against using any of the smaller pharmacies that are scattered close to Nana intersection (Nana Plaza) or Soi Cowboy. Quite a few seem to exist just to sell 'stimulants' to the nightlife crowd, and at inflated prices.
Likewise the pharmacies inside Boots' and Watsons' outlet will be more expensive than the pharmacies along the road, but they are run by pharmacists.
In the Central Business District (Silom Area) we have visited one rather good pharmacy. It is called S.C. Drugstore and is located on Rama IV road. If coming from Silom Road, turn left at Robinson along Rama IV. You have to pass one smaller pharmacy and also the giant Crown Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park Hotel (formerly Pan Pacific Hotel). The pharmacy is located just past the hotel. It has a rather small sign in English and is moderately sized. They also sell medical equipment like wheelchairs.
Interesting 'alternative' pharmacies to visit, are those run by the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO). There are some branches in hard to locate places. The most suitable to visit is the branch located in the basement at the Immigration offices on Chaeng Wattana Road.
In central Bangkok there is also a branch located close to Victory Monument. If coming from the BTS station, follow the exit to where all the hospitals and health facilities are located (Ratchawithi road). Look for a doorsign saying GPO (can be missed). We estimate it is about 400-500 meters from Victory Monument. You can spend a few minutes inside browsing around what is on offer. Common drugs can also be bought here, likely cheaper than anywhere else. Ex. paracetamol 38 baht for 100 tablets of 500 mg ; vitamin C 500 mg, 100 tablets for 125 baht, etc; Centrum brand multivitamins here are a few hundred baht less than in most pharmacies.
GPO sells a variety of Thai and internationally known herb capsules like cinnamon, turmeric, Ginkgo Biloba and many others we do not have a clue about. You can find very good cheap plasters.
There is occasional talk about 'fake' medicine. We think this is largely overblown, and that medication not obtained in some obscure off the road pharmacy in the middle of nowhere, is reliable. The same of course can not be said about drugs peddled on the street. There seem to be close to 10 stalls offering Viagra and Cialis on Sukhumvit Road, with the drugs displayed in the plain heat of the hot Bangkok sun. Not sure if we would trust that.
Sports Supplements and 'esoteric' other Supplements
When looking for things cheap, be aware that this does not apply to sports supplements (carnitine, creatine), though you can find some not expensive local protein whey powders. Supplements like resveratrol, coenzyme Q, lutein, ginseng, DHEA etc. can be much cheaper when ordered and imported from abroad.
Street Pharmacies vs. Hospital Pharmacies
The way drugs are prescribed and obtained certainly is somewhat questionable in Bangkok and Thailand. The problem can be summarized as follows. When in need of medical treatment, it basically can only be obtained in hospitals.
When going to the hospital one usually gets medication prescribed. You can get your medication at the hospital pharmacy. Drugs obtained at major hospitals are more expensive. (more about this topic)
So the many pharmacies outside the hospitals do not see any patients coming to them with prescriptions. So how are they to survive? Well, they can only distribute medication, as freely as they are allowed or feel comfortable with, to anyone who comes in and asks for it.
The way to reform the system would be to force the physicians at major hospitals to prescribe drugs, that can either be obtained at the local hospital pharmacy or outside the hospital. Since this would have the effect of lowering overall prices for drugs, it would reduce medical expenditure in general (for both patients and insurance companies). Of course, hospitals would loose part of their income.
Another interesting issue is the use of generic drugs. These actually are widely available at outside pharmacies at a fraction of the cost of 'brand name' drugs. When going to a hospital however, you invariably will be provided with the expensive variety. We do recall however one day getting some cheap generic paracetamol at a reputable hospital. Just maybe one day, hospital pharmacies could put their heads together and make a list of reliable generic drugs available in Thailand (many actually produced locally) and start using them and having them prescribed by their physicians.
More about Pharmacies : practical tips for buying medication, on drug safety.
Add-on : Is the medication you require available in Bangkok (Thailand)?