Travelers, retirees or expats considering a move to Belize are often anxious to know if they can get a prescription refill and what types of medications are available at Belize pharmacies.
For many years Belize has been a net importer of manufactured products from the U.S.A. The supermarkets are full of familiar brands such as Kraft, Heinz, Campbell’s, Proctor and Gamble – you get the picture. Pharmacies are no different and carry most medications from major manufacturers such as Abbott, Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly, Johnson and Johnson and others.
You can purchase practically any type of medication in Belize. Most brands are North American or European and of recent, sourced from Latin America. Medications in Belize are not cheap – generally marked up about 25% higher compared to prices in the U.S. – but there are exceptions. These are mainly for generic drugs that are manufactured in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Belize has a small consumer base – about 390,000 people, and taxes of all types are levied on every step of the pharmaceuticals import supply chain by government. Business owners have no choice but to pass this on to the consumer. But basic medications such as antibiotics and pain medication are not taxed.
Here are a few prices for certain medications in Belize. We will add to this list as we can, or residents here may use the Contact Form to send us information. Diclofenac sodium 100mg delayed release NSAID pain medication – BZ$.50 to BZ$1.05 per coated tablet depending on source. This is one of the great puzzles in Belize prices. The prices quoted here for Diclofenac sodium are for the exact, same western European manufactured brand name medication. Diazepam 10mg generic in sealed strip BZ$1.00 to BZ$1.25 – sold loose about BZ$.80. each. Hipercor D 50mg, the generic version of Cozaar, a basic and essential medication to control high blood pressure, (hydrochlorothiazide / losartan, a combination drug with a low dose thiazide diuretic), is available for BZ$29., for a 30 tablet pack (manufactured in Paraguay). Omeprazol proton pump inhibitor (anti acid stomach medication), from BZ$.50 to BZ$1.00 per capsule depending on brand and source.
Prescription Medications In Belize
The only advantage Belize has is that some pharmacies will accommodate visitors who may have misplaced or left their prescriptions at home. Since many Belizeans are very poor and cannot afford to attend a doctor, many pharmacies function as a one-stop source of medical advice and dispensary of medications for common ailments.
You will find that the smaller Mom and Pop pharmacies will be more accommodating compared to larger pharmacies where the pharmacist on duty (usually an employee) will insist on a prescription – even if you are feeling ill and your prescription is back home in the U.S.
If you really need a medication that requires a prescription, the best advice is to visit a local doctor – a general practitioner is best and will only charge about US$15. for a consultation and prescription. There are many General Practitioners located countrywide and most are solo practices and very accommodating. But if you are on a tight or have no budget it may be more cost effective to visit a local government polyclinic or hospital (see below). There is a difference between general practitioners and specialists. You will find specialist doctors practicing all over Belize and their rates are double what a GP will charge. Many of these specialists arrive in Belize as part of the Cuban medical assistance project in Belize, and some “defect”, that is, decide to remain in Belize where they can make a better living.
Avoid a specialist unless you really need one. A visit to a specialist will easily run you to US $50. or more including basic medication.
Public Health Care In Belize
All cities and towns have public hospitals where you can go to seek medical attention for a very low fee – about U.S.$2.50 Unless it is an emergency you will need to arrive early to get a number and be prepared to wait hours before you are attended to. Basic medications such as antibiotics or pain medication are provided free of charge at hospital pharmacies, although some hospitals will ask for a nominal fee of US$5. to provide the medication.
Tip: Regional Hospitals located in Belmopan, Orange Walk Town and Dangriga offer walk-in service after working hours and on weekends in fully air conditioned facilities with medical officers and specialists on duty around the clock. These hospitals also have pharmacies that offer free basic medications prescribed by the in-house medic. Emergencies such as asthma attacks or high blood pressure crisis are treated promptly and at no charge. Trauma cases of course are treated promptly but a bill may follow.
You will also find private medical centers in major cities. A consultation is US$25. minimum. For the relatively high cost they are convenient and have parking, air conditioning, private hospital (about US$250. a day) and their own pharmacies.
Two of the largest, Belize Medical Associates and Belize Health Care Partners are located in Belize City.
For cruise ship passengers, the Pharmacy Express is located right inside the Tourism Village where they disembark in Belize city.
The telephone number for the Belize Tourism Village Pharmacy Express is (501) 223 7778.
If you are a retiree or an ex-pat living in Belize on a budget, you might consider settling in northern Belize with easy access to Mexico where pharmaceuticals and medical care are more economical. If you settle out west near the border with Guatemala you will find the cost of pharmaceuticals more in line with those available in Belize but the saving grace is that medical care, including dental work, is more economical compared to Mexico.
The advantage of living in northern Belize is the easy access to Chetumal city, Mexico, a first world city with economical medical and pharmaceutical services.
Pharmacies in Guatemala tend to source their primary brand name supplies from Europe so you may find items not available in Belize. One final piece of advice, most pharmacies in Belize are closed on Sundays, although in Belize City and Belmopan a couple open half day on Sunday. In the neighboring cities of Chetumal, (Mexico) and Melchor de Mencos or Flores Peten (Guatemala) pharmacies open on weekends.
Belize Pharmacies – Advice For Travelers
The following advice courtesy of travel writer Lan Sluder:
There are drug stores in Belize City, in all towns, and in some villages. Many prescription drugs cost less in Belize than in the U.S., though pharmacies may not stock a wide selection of drugs and some drugs cost more in Belize than in the U.S. or Canada.
In general, in Belize prescriptions usually are not needed for antibiotics and some other drugs that require prescriptions in the U.S., even some painkillers containing codeine. However, pharmacies owned by physicians or operated by hospitals, a common situation in Belize, may require or suggest a consultation with the doctor.
Among the larger drug stores in Belize are Community Drug Stores, which has three locations in Belize City; Val-U-Med, Family Health Pharmacy and First Choice Pharmacy, all in Belize City; and The Pharmacy in San Ignacio. Also, Brodies supermarkets in Belize City and Belmopan have pharmacies.
In addition,especially if you are in Northern Belize, crossing the border to Chetumal in Mexico is an option. Chetumal has large farmacias that have most medications at prices significantly lower than in the U.S., and often lower than in Belize. If you are taking prescription medications, when you come to Belize you can choose generic versions of the drug. Most pharmacies have their computer database and can look up the prescription and the generic version for you. In Mexico and Guatemala, due to the language difference it may not be so easy, thus you would be advised to have the generic name of the brand name to facilitate your prescription refill.