You can be reassured that most prescription medicines from your home country are available in China. I’d say that 95% of the time our clinics’ pharmacists can find a safe, joint venture Chinese version of your home medicines. Sometimes the expat pharmacies need to order them, but this usually takes only a few days. Then there is that 5% that may not even be imported here. In that case, we do our best to order, but sometimes patients need to stock up when they return home or have friends at home buy and send over.

RxSo, which pharmacy should you go to?

Each expat clinic has its own in-house pharmacy which stocks major medicines and can also order special medicines when needed. For basic medicines you can choose whichever clinic is most convenient for you, or for insurance reasons you need to go to.

At my clinic, the International Medical Center, anyone is welcome to come in and talk to our pharmacists. We stock all the familiar over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like Panadol or ibuprofen for pain, plus many U.S.-made vitamins. Most of our medicines are either imported or local joint ventures. If you need a prescription medicine, you can easily see one of the doctors immediately to discuss what you need. Don’t forget that antibiotics and some travel medicines like malaria pills and altitude sickness pills always require a physician visit and prescription — in any pharmacy in China.

What about Chinese pharmacies?

As many of you already know, the pharmacy system is very different here (compared to the US, at least). There is no Walgreens-style private chain where you could reliably take your doctor’s Rx and get it filled. Nor could you automatically trust the medicines you get there, compared to the expat clinic medicines — admittedly more expensive but often more reliably purchased from foreign joint-venture suppliers. Yes, the quality control in China is constantly improving, but there are too many recent stories about counterfeit or subtherapeutic medicines for my comfort range.

21 thoughts on “Pharmacies”

  1. Hello! My husband and I were wondering how easy it is to get humalog insulin and glucometer test strips as we will be moving there for a year. Thanks!

      1. Coming to Shunyi District in Beijing, I will need insulin and take Novolin or Humilin. Are these available there?

    1. I’m sorry to hear that! Our clinic rents crutches out to patients — but just about every local pharmacy I’ve seen in Beijing would have them, and there are also many medical supply stores in most neighborhoods.

    1. Yes they all should, that’s basic stuff. But I don’t think it’s OTC… Just bring your old one and show it to them

  2. Dear Sir or Madam,

    I have recently bought some Phlomis Umbrosa roots to stimulate and increase our son’s growth rate, (slowered due to endocrinal problem).
    However I didn’t receive any instruction for preparation of those plant roots.
    Please suggest shall we use it as a herbal powder and in what dosage (he is 14 years old) or shall we prapare a tea. If so, please give us instruction for tea preparation.


  3. Hi, I will be in Beijing for some time and will most likely run out of my somatropin while i’m there due to shelf life of the product. Do you have this in stock and can I purchase it easily if I were to visit the pharmacy?
    Humatrope or Genotropin ?

  4. Hi! I’d like to know if you sell metformin and if you coud have it mailed to Xiamen in Fujian province? I will be going there this December, but I am afraid to bring my medicine in my luggage. Thanks!

  5. Hello,

    Do you stock either of the following contraceptive pills – Losterin 20 or Mercilon? And can I get them without a prescription? Thank you

  6. I have anxiety/depression and have been taking zoloft for years. I have heard mixed answers about whether it is available in china with some saying it’s OTC and some saying you can’t get it all. Do you have it?

Leave a Reply

A family doctor's wellness guide for China