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Staying Healthy on the Road Medical info, e.g. malaria, vaccinations, travel medical tips, medical insurance, where to find a doctor.
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Old 6 Feb 2022
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Medical supplies in Africa

Hi Guys, I will be riding from SA to Kenya and back at the end of this year. The countries I will be traveling through are – SA, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zim, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Are general medications available from pharmacies for such things as antibiotics, malaria (both avoidance and treatment), bilharzia and other such infections? And if you are on a prescription drug that you can only get a UK GP to supply a 3 month script for, if they supply a letter confirming such requirements, are pharmacists available to supply?
I have heard that some counties can have an issue with strong pain killers such as co-codamol and class them as narcotics. Is there a reliable information source available about both of these topics?

Thanks for you responses.
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Old 6 Feb 2022
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Hi Stuart

I’ll start you off. I had no problem getting treatment for bilhazia from a chemist in a town near Lake Malawi. Was readily available and quick to obtain.

Ive not had issues getting pharmaceutical drugs in RSA (where I am regularly) either.

I did that route in 2016 (exc Burundi) - it was epic, you’ll have a great time
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Old 6 Feb 2022
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I'll offer another incomplete answer. First of all, asking whether un-named meds you're prescribed in the U.K. will be available using your U.K. scrip--or even available at all--is impossible to answer. You'll need to specify the medication in question along with the country, and this might attract a useful answer.

Second, in at least some of those countries there are lots of counterfeit medications, along with meds that have been mis-handled or are well past expiry. Personally, I buy my travel meds at home where I know what I'm getting--and won't have to interrupt a trip to go off in search of medications, then wonder whether whatever I bought spent a month in some warehouse in the tropical heat.

I make exceptions when traveling to places where I trust the distribution channels and for drugs unavailable at home, like Coartem. However, in most such places the prices are as high as they are at home anyway, so there's no advantage to waiting.

Third, certain meds within your general categories are not licensed in all countries, and may even be more expensive when they're available. I always think of Malarone in this connection, but with the advent of generic versions I'm not sure whether this still applies. In any case, it's worth being specific, at least when it comes to anti-malarials and other meds where the specific formulation matters greatly.

Hope that's helpful.

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Old 9 Feb 2022
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I apologise if some contributors feel my question is incomplete, however I am traveling with two others and at this point do not know what exact meds they may require, if at all. Or if they would feel happy with me putting this out on a public forum.
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Old 9 Feb 2022
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No need to apologize; my only point in that regard is that without specifying you're not likely to get useful answers. I certainly understand anyone's reluctance to announce their personal med list on a public forum.

Your travel mates could consider asking specific questions by using their own anonymizing usernames.

Last edited by markharf; 9 Feb 2022 at 18:51.
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Old 10 Feb 2022
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Hi Stuart:

The concerns that Mark has raised in his post #3 above are valid, and should be carefully considered.

So far as availability of medications is concerned, you have listed quite a wide range of countries so far as economic health and level of development are concerned. I would not be too concerned about the availability (or authenticity) of medications in Botswana or Namibia, but I would be very concerned about both availability and authenticity in (for example) Zimbabwe.

Consider that there is not much of a market for a "first world" medication that might cost USD $100 in Europe or North America in an African country where the majority of the population earns less than $100 a month.

Consider also that in many middle-income and lesser-developed countries, generic medications will be manufactured locally, thus pretty much eliminating the market for any imported 'brand name' equivalent or even an imported generic equivalent. This means that the only drug available (at any price) will be the locally produced equivalent, or (even worse) a Chinese produced equivalent.

Whenever I have travelled to African countries in the past - and I have spent a lot of time living and working in lesser-developed African countries - I have brought with me a course of antibiotics, and all the malaria prophylaxis & treatment that I might need. So far as treatment for popular local diseases (e.g. bilharzia), I work on the assumption that I can get treatment for such a disease at an expatriate-oriented medical clinic in the capital city.... so I just bring a lot of money instead.

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