Have you ever wondered what the cost of medication in Portugal is? I had heard it was much lower than in the United States, but I didn’t anticipate finding out just how much lower while on a scouting trip.
While stuck in a hotel room in Lisbon because of Covid, I ran out of my medication. I had packed enough for our 8-day trip to Coimbra, but I did not anticipate getting Covid on this trip.
My First Attempt at Getting Medications
I have diabetes, depression, and thyroid issues. It’s important to stay on top of my medications and take them regularly. Unfortunately, I ran out. So I did what any normal person would do and ignored the situation for a few days.
But my sugars were going up and I was starting to feel “off.” I wrote out a list of my medications and dosages along with my name and date of birth for my sister-in-law, Angie, to take to the local pharmacy as soon as she was off quarantine.
I don’t know why I thought the pharmacy could give me a few days’ worth of medication just based on my word alone. At least I found out the meds are all available in Portugal. The pharmacist said to have my doctor email the prescriptions to the pharmacy, so I called my doctor’s office, explained the situation, and gave them the email address.
Later that day, my doctor still hadn’t sent the prescriptions. I had to call them again. But no one sent the prescriptions over to the pharmacy.
My Second Attempt at Getting Medications
The next day, Angie went back to the pharmacy to see if the medications were ready yet. The pharmacist said he still did not have the prescriptions. I again called my doctor’s office to explain the situation. The person who answered said they need the name of the pharmacy so they can look it up and send prescriptions electronically. They can’t send them by email.
After getting the name and address, I called my doctor yet again. This time they were able to find the correct pharmacy and sent over the prescriptions. Angie was able to pick them up at 5 pm.
The Surprising Cost of Medication in Portugal
When Angie went back to the pharmacy at 5 pm, my medications were finally ready. I needed one med for my thyroid, two meds for my depression, and two types of insulin. The pharmacist told her the cost. He apologized for not being able to give a discount since I’m not a resident of Portugal. She would have to pay full retail price for them.
Are you sitting down? Sit, and I will tell you the price.
Angie almost dropped her jaw at that point, and quickly paid. Not only did I get all five of my medications, but I got one month’s worth of four of them and one week’s worth of one of them for the low, low price of 142 Euros, about $158.
That’s right. My aripiprazole, which costs $661 per month in the U.S. without discounts, cost me a total of 23.13 Euros (about $26). My levothyroxine (2 months’ worth) cost 3.82 Euros (about $4.25) where it would have cost $15 in the U.S. Sertraline was 9.19 Euros (about $11.50) but would have cost $104 in the U.S.
The most costly medications were my insulins. Trulicity, the weekly one, cost me 53.88 Euros (about $60). In the U.S., that one dose would have cost me $850. Lantus, my daily insulin, cost 51.92 Euros (about $58) for one month’s worth of insulin. In the U.S., it costs $450 a month.
The cost of medication in Portugal for me came to about $158 retail where in the U.S. I would have paid about $2,080 retail. I used the prices at Walgreens to figure out the retail prices in the U.S. for the various medications.
Is it any wonder why the U.S. health system is collapsing? No one can afford prices like that without insurance. Even with insurance, costs are astronomical. This is one of the major reasons we are moving to Portugal.
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