Paul Acee's Ecuador

Buying Prescription Drugs in Ecuador Without a Prescription


Buying prescription drugs in Ecuador without a prescription is very easy to do.  I’m sure that sounds confusing but I’ll explain. With the exception of narcotics and some pain medications you can get just about any pharmaceutical drug at an Ecuador pharmacy without a prescription.

In the U.S. you can get two types of drugs at a pharmacy, over the counter drugs ( OTC) and prescription drugs (Rx). In Ecuador, with few exceptions, everything can be considered over the counter (OTC) here and doesn’t require a prescription.

This can come in real handy for both residents and tourists. If you know what you need you can just skip the doctor visit, and go to a pharmacy and buy what you need.

Generic Drugs in Ecuador

For most of the 1990’s I worked in management for a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer in the U.S. After that I was a pharmaceutical machinery dealer for more than 10 years. It’s an industry I know well.

Most of the pharmaceutical drugs available in Ecuador are generic drugs. This is great because they’re much cheaper than branded drugs and are exactly the same as branded drugs.

Many of the generic drugs that are available in Ecuador are manufactured in India. India universities graduate more chemical engineers per capita than any country in the world. Large numbers of these graduates choose the pharmaceutical industry as a career path both in India and around the world. In the U.S. you’ll find immigrants from India working for pharmaceutical manufacturers in every job description, from CEO’s to R&D to machine operators.

I’ve done a little bit of an informal survey here. Some generics here from Argentina (exactly the same generic drug) are slightly higher in price than those from India. So does that mean the generics from Argentina are better? Absolutely not, a generic is a generic and is exactly the same so if you have a choice, buy the cheaper one. They come from other countries as well.

When you walk into a pharmacy here just hand the pharmacist a piece of paper with the drug name, dosage, and quantity wanted. When I say drug name I don’t mean the brand name.  For example, Advil is a brand name for a drug called ibuprofen so in that instance you would ask for ibuprofen at the pharmacy here.

In my small survey I found that pricing was about the same among the pharmacies with one exception. Fybeca which is a chain here was about 50% more expensive than the others for the same thing, ouch.

It hasn’t happened to me yet here but the next time I have an abscessed tooth I can just bypass  the dentists torture chamber and go straight to the pharmacy and buy some Ampicillin, sans prescription. lol


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Paul Acee

Author: Paul Acee

Retired and living in Ecuador.


  1. Couple of things….Paul. Thanks as always for such a relevant post.
    I have a discount card with Fybeca which gives me a nice reduction from the posted price. Did you take that into consideration in saying Fybeca was more expensive? David Morrill at Cuenca High Life is always looking for content for that ‘newspaper.’ You write so well…this article would be excellent for CHL. Think about it, OK?

    • Paul Acee

      Hi Kay,
      I was a little surprised by Fybeca, shocked actually. I had them give me a price on a generic that would be by prescription only in the U.S. and it was $33 for 30 capsules. Everyone else was around $22 to $24 for the same thing. A Fybeca discount card would have to be good for 50% off just to be competitive.
      2) Thank you.

  2. I too utilize Fybeca, primarily because I enrolled with them online and therefore receive purchase information electronically, which I can easily forward to my stateside health insurance Tricare (retired military). The store receipts I receive from various pharmacies are normally so faded Tricare will not accept them. For the medications I am using, price is not really an issue. The most difficult medication for me to purchase has been Moduretic 5/50mg (high blood pressure water pill), which I pay normally $3/10, because Ecuador limits the number of pills that can be purchased at any one time to 3 packages of 10, as I recall. Also, it is not unusual to find the pharmacy has no more than one ten pill package of a medication on hand and at times maybe less. Normally they can place an order for additional medications, which usually are available the next day.

    • I understand that price may be a major concern for many expats. By utilizing the Fybeca website anyone can find their prices for name brand medications and the various generic medications they carry. With that knowledge, they can go to any pharmacy with an idea of what they can expect to pay. I don’t know about other pharmacies, but with my Fybeca discount card, I get 5 free pills every time I purchase 2 boxes (20 pills) of one of my medications and for another medication there are at least 4 different generic medications with different prices and the best price is for a generic I cut into quarters to get the dosage I need.
      I can’t speak for others but utilizing pharmacies in Ecuador has been a real learning experience. Best thing to do is shop around to find the best pharmacy that meets your specific needs. You can always purchase one dose of each medication per visit until you do. Good luck.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Like that about perscriptions, that’ll work! Cuz, Im on them “yea”.
    Question: Gettin act together to arrive in March, Is the “yellow-fever” vaccine the only immunization required to set-foot on Ecuador, besides the normal childhood vacines; would you knw?

    • Paul Acee

      Hi Anita,
      Coming from North America no vaccinations are required at all.
      Unless you’ll be going to the Amazon you don’t need a “yellow fever” vaccine and from what I understand you can get those for free here verses more than $100 in the U.S.

      • Hey, Paul….You’re Awesome! We own you one, or even two! Just saved the 2-of us over $200 big bucks or more! Contact you when, God willing we arrive!
        Appreciative, Anita

        • there is a 10 day period you have to consider for the vaccine to be effective. so unless you are going to spend 10 days in Quito and then head to the Amazon, not advisable.

    • Not required, but recommended if going into the Amazon region, I believe.

  4. Hi Paul,

    We went to 2 pharmacies in Cuenca asking for pseudoephedrine (sudafed), both said we needed a prescription. We were able to get it in Baños, though. Didn’t know what to say…

    • Paul Acee

      Interesting. Pseudoephedrine can be used to make methamphetamine which could be why it’s difficult to get. As a stand alone drug it’s sold as a nasal decongestant, it’s also a stimulant and widely abused off label for weight loss. Pseudo has a lot of baggage so I’m really not surprised if it’s difficult to get.
      It’s extensively used by pharmaceutical manufactures as a combo drug (in combination with others). If you see a medication advertised as fast acting it’s probably got some pseudo in it.

  5. Thanks for the information.
    Is it possible to get all medicine in Ecuador? Even hard pain killers?
    My wife is handicap and depends on some of these. I have visited but we have talked about relocating from the states.

  6. I am currently on a testosterone injection regime. How difficult will it be to get the medication, syringes, needles and needle disposal box.

  7. Hello Paul,
    My name is Bev and my husband Jim and I are coming to Cuenca to see if it fits our desire to relocate (we HAVE to get out of the USA, things are so bad here). We are leaving on Christmas Day (arrive 26th at 7 pm). We would like to find someone to hook up with to give us some info and thoughts about Cuenca or Otovalo (and area). Do you know anyone who could help us? Do you know of a quiet hotel, not expensive and not noisy? Thank you so much!

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