Buying Medicine in Hungary My Hungarian home page
WARNING: I don't know anything about drugs or medicine. Anyone who takes my advice is stupid. Don't be stupid -- always consult a physician for drug advice.
Over the counter drugs, along with prescription drugs are sold in Hungary in apothecary stores -- patika. You can look in vain in food and cosmetic stores.
The sign outside is likely to say "Gyogyszertar" and have a graphic showing a snake with its tail coiled around a cup and its upper body forming a question mark shape over the cup.
The clerks in the apothecary stores are knowledgeable, and have computers that let them check the ingredients of each item that they sell. But don't expect to find many clerks that speak English, that is why you may want to copy this page and use the "point and look helpless" mode of shopping.
The pharmacies in Hungary haven't heard of either Acetaminophen or TylenolŪ.
(2002 update I did see a woman on the train with a Tylenol bottle, so perhaps it is now available)
The generic synonym that they do know is: paracetamol.
The picture below shows two of the brands that are available. Panadol is the most widely advertised. I don't know if there is any chemical difference, but Panadol is easier to swallow while the Benuron is about half the price per pill. (2006 update I asked for Benuron and got only a puzzeled look -- either it isn't available or my pronuncation is just too bad)
Pharmacies do know about Centrum and sell it. The brand shown below is cheaper and seems to us to be about the same. There are chewable children's vitamins called Actival Junior -- read the label to see if they are what you want. Note, vitamins are also available in health foods stores and also in some "toiletries" stores, see below), but not necessarily at better prices -- you might want to shop around. The advantage of shopping for vitamins in a "toiletries" store is that they are generally displayed on open shelves. This lets you stand there and read the lists of ingredients. Just to make things more fun, some vitamins and minerals have different names in Hungarian than in English - bring along the wrapper from your old vitamins and you will be able to puzzle it out.
Immodium, the anti-diarrheal, is marketed under this same name in Hungary and carried by most pharmacies.
We haven't found any familiar brands like Tums, but here is what we use. Note that this is magnesium based rather than calcium -- you have to figure out if this matters to you.
It seems to us that, when they have colds, Hungarians are more prone to stay home in bed or to see a doctor for a prescription than they are to use over-the-counter remedies. Thus your choices are quite limited. In particular, our decongestant of choice, pseudoephedrine, seems to be totally unavailable - even by prescription.
There is a lot of advice for travelers on other sites about this topic, but you should know that Hungarian pharmacists seem to have a good deal of discretion in the matter. We found that it is possible to get an emergency refill of an American prescription medicine if you have the original labeled bottle. Two warnings: European drugs may be marketed under different trade names, so the pharmacy may not recognize the drug name, and some drugs are simply not available in Hungary. Expect to pay full price -- your perscription plan is unknown here. Finally, if you don't have a Hungarian speaker with you, you may have to find an English speaking pharmacist to negotiate with.
Contact Lens Solution
You buy contact lens solution in eye glass stores -- optica. You can expect to find a very limited selection but they will be international name brands at stiff prices. (2006 update I paid 4,500 forints, about $20, for a 12 oz bottle of Baush and Lomb daily solution) Shop around if you have time. The best advice is to bring enough of your favorite brand to last your stay.
Hungarian stores have a wide variety of products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, shaving supplies, sanitary napkins and tampons, and almost everything else. There are many international brands at prices about what you would pay at full retail in the U.S. Local brands seem quite good so you may want to experiment. Do remember that even "American" brands may not have English instructions on the label, not much of a problem for tooth paste, but more so for hair coloring.
Merchandise of these kinds is sold in large supermarkets (Kaiser's, Match) as well as specialty shops which seem like what Americans call "drug stores" except that they don't sell drugs. The chains "Rossmann" "dm" and "Azur"
display their merchandise supermarket-style and have wide selections at reasonable prices. Again, if you have special needs, or a favorite brand that you don't want to do without -- bring enough along. (2006 update Many, if not all of the Azur stores are being replaced with stores that are part of the SCHLECTER chain. Look at Schlecter and dm for some discount priced house brand items.)
Disclaimer: Some of the names mentioned above are the trade marks of specific companies. Lawyers who wish to send me nasty letters should recognize that a) I am trying my best to indicate those names through the use of capitalization, and b) I reserve the right to publish any such letters on the web along with nasty and satirical remarks as may seem to me appropriate.
This page is at: http://drott.ischool.drexel.edu/hungary/drugs.html