Brazil: A Trip to the Pharmacy

By Pat Moraes
April 26, 2007

São JOSE DOS CAMPOS – In Brazil there seems to be a pharmacy on every corner, and in our downtown area there are often three at a busy intersection. The pharmacy is a great place to seek help and advice for those minor ailments that you might not feel you need to see a doctor for. I have recently received over the counter help (without a prescription) for a bladder infection, aches and pains, and a cough from a cold that I had.

Many years ago, back in late seventies, I was made aware that certain things that we take for granted back in the States, do not operate exactly the same here in Brazil. At that time when I would be visiting Brazil I would often get a case of diarrhea and I would routinely take a drug called enterovioformio. It worked wonders and it was quick. Then I read an article in TIME” magazine about drug dumping in the third world. The drug featured in the article was the same enterovioformio. It was banned by the FDA for its rather severe side effects and fatalities, but the drug manufactures continued to sell the drug in other parts of the world.

This drug is no longer available here in Brazil, but the episode left me with an ongoing suspicion to this day. Each time I get help at the pharmacy, I do a little research on my own to find out exactly what I am taking. First I read the “bule”, which is the insert in the drug package. From this I am able to get the names of the active ingredients. Then I check wikipedia which is an incredible source of information. If I don&rsquot;t find what I am looking for I have to get a little more persistent in my search…

If you have a headache, muscle ache, toothache, etc, you will most likely be offered Dor-flex, Novalgina, or Anador, all of which contain the same basic ingredient… “Dipirona”. Here is the wikipedia link ( ) for information on this most popular drug, which for reasons detailed in the article is only available in “the third world”.

A comprehensive study was performed by “ANVISA”, a Brazilian drug over sight organization in 2001 and they concluded that Dipirona is both safe and effective and continue to approve of its use. In our household, my husband who is Brazilian takes Dor-flex. I, the American part of our partnership, choose not to, since I am aware that Dipirona can affect your white blood cell count, and I already have a low count. We feel that we are both making informed decisions for our own needs, and that is the point I am trying to make in this article.

My next drug search was a little more difficult. I was in a small non chain pharmacy looking at over the counter cough syrups and didn&rsquot;t find any thing that I hadn&rsquot;t already tried and that worked. The pharmacist went into the back room and came back with a bottle of Dropropizina, which he assured me would really work for me. I thought it might at the price of about $20 US for a small bottle. I can&rsquot;t tell you if it works, because I haven&rsquot;t tried it. It is tucked away in a cupboard and if I ever get a cough that I really can&rsquot;t stand then I might just get tempted to try it.

To make a long story a little shorter, I will just say that Dropropizina turns out to be a generic term for Tussiflex, manufactured by Abbot Laboratories and also listed under the generic ingredient of Zipeprol. This one does not come up on wikipedia, but a long and diligent goggle search divulged that under the advice of the World Health Organization the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime added it to the list of “Prohibited Drugs” in 1995 after a large number of teenagers in Korea died from the results of chugging this rather addictive substance. None of this is divulged in the drug insert that came with the medicine or on any of the Brazilian websites devoted to drug effects. I think the druggist was cautious in keeping the cough syrup in the back room and checking me out, a middle aged gringa, before selling me the bottle.

If you have an ache, pain, or fever, see your local pharmacist and find out what he recommends. Then do a little research of your own.

Article by Patricia Moraes, American, married to Sidney Moraes, Brazilian, both recently retired and experimenting with living part of the year in California, USA and São Jose dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil.

Previous article by Pat:

Brazil Through Foreign Eyes
Brazil: Follow Up to a Moving Experience
Brazil: A Moving Experience

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