Low-cost Medications Are a Bonus for Caregivers in Peru

A customer buys medications in Nortfarma, a Peruvian pharmacy; prices are fixed by a national ministry, and stores that overcharge are fined. (photo: Andina)

In other posts, I’ve written about how affordable home-health aides are in Lima, a benefit that greatly helped our family when caring for my American father in Peru.

Today I want to share another bonus of caregiving in Lima: how medications are sold and dispensed. The Latin American system is so different than the for-profit model used in the United States, it’s shocking–and I mean that in a good way.

Basically, consumers at a Peruvian pharmacy can get almost any medication they want for about 70% less than what it would cost in the United States–without a doctor’s prescription. This savings applies only drugs that are no longer under patent and which are currently manufactured by several companies or as generics. New medications under patent are still full price.

For instance, the memory drug Excelon was still under patent when my father was taking it in 2011, so we had to pay full price (more than US$100 a month) for it in Lima. However, the eight other medications he took daily (Omeprazol, Sertraline, etc.) were available in generic form, and we ended up spending about US$80 a month for all of them together.

The savings were considerable, so we didn’t need his US insurance to cover drug costs. (His prescription plan  didn’t work down in Peru anyway).

I know that some readers are still stuck on that phrase in the third paragraph–“without a doctor’s prescription.”

Yes, that’s right. With the exception of certain drugs (see below), medications are freely dispensed in pharmacies sin receta (without a prescription), and overall, this works to the consumer’s favor in Peru, apart from the hazards of self-medicating. People do go to doctors and get prescriptions, but they aren’t necessary for initial purchase. And this system makes it much easier when you are a caregiver to an elderly person and you have to keep up with lots of refills.

Here is how the ordering process works:

Continue Reading

The Phone Call: Real Life Adventure #1

finger with blue telephone keypad - communication concept

In January 2011, I had a strange conversation with my father.

My husband and I were living in Peru, our home for the last five years. My father, a healthy 86-year-old widower, was living in his home in Florida.  He was all alone except for his poodle, Charlie Brown. Still, he got out regularly – errands, church, weekly meetings of the Masons. I wasn’t too worried about him. Years before I had gotten him one of those Life Alert things, and he wore it around his neck. His neighbors looked in on him. Plus we talked several times a week. This was one of those times.

“Dad, I tried calling you earlier,” I said. “The phone just rang and rang. Where were you?”

“Oh, Barbara. It’s all screwed up…” His voice trailed off.

“Dad, where were you?” I persisted.

“I’m right here,” he said, his voice keening.

“Is everything okay?”

“All they gave me is goddamn crackers.”

“Dad, you’re not sounding okay.”

“Just Townhouse crackers. Shut up!” This to the dog, who was yapping in the background.Continue Reading

%d bloggers like this: