Travel in India with type 1 diabetes – buying diabetes supplies in India

In late July 2011, exactly 7 months after Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we backpacked around India for four weeks, in a trip we called Monsoon Meandering.

This is post 8 in the series about that trip and its planning and how type 1 diabetes played a part.

This post is not borne from experience but from information some of my good friends in India have provided me, following questions asked via the #DOC (Twitter diabetes online community). I’d like to thank my friends Gautam, Madhu and Yogesh for their help in getting me the information for this article.
 

Do I take everything or just enough?

The answer to this will always come down to personal preference and the length of travel time. Personally, I’d rather always take enough – in fact, more than enough – supplies for the whole journey as I don’t want to spend time looking for supplies instead of enjoying the holiday. If we got the chance to travel for many months obviously things would be different.

Quick note for people from the UK: we’re very lucky in the UK to get virtually everything for free* from our superb National Health Service, so it may not be immediately apparent that many countries’ residents do not. So you will have to pay for anything you run out of, or replace after loss.
 

Can I get what I need in India?

Probably; almost certainly if you’re on multiple daily injections, as opposed to a pump. It is possible to buy supplies either off-the-shelf or via prescription from these leading brands: Novo-Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Accu-chek, BD (needles/swabs), Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, Freestyle, Bayer and Sanofi. Although these companies sell certain products please don’t rely on them selling everything you currently use. See the HealthKart links further down this post to view information about what may be available.
 

Buying without a prescription

India does have a Doctor prescription system but many things that are only available under prescription in the UK (for example) can be purchased off-the-shelf without the need for a prescription. Other things that should require a prescription can sometimes be bought without a prescription just by talking to a pharmacist who’s willing to sell it, but of course I’d not recommend trying to break the rules. 😮
It seems most things other than insulin and insulin-pens can be bought without prescription.
My friend Yogesh from Delhi told me “Most of the chemists will give you medicine without a prescription, heck half of them act as doctors as well and plenty of people just ask them what medicine to take for ailment, rather than going to the doctor.”.
 

Getting a prescription

My friend Madhu from Hyderabad sums it up well: “Not hard to get doctors prescription or medicine here in India. One way to do it is to get a letter from your GP saying what medicines one takes and more than anything to know what is the composition of the medicines. Any reputable doctor here would do a quick check and give a local prescription. Any mid size hotel here has a doctor who is their house doctor. If not one can go to the major chain hospitals like Apollo which are reputable”.
 

HealthKart.com and some example pricing

Take a look at HealthKart.com to see what types of things are available online, which should give a rough indication what is available offline too. Often online purchases in India are more expensive than in real shops and although HealthKart breaks this rule it’s not much use if you haven’t got a permanent address in India. So this is just for info only: http://www.healthkart.com/diabetes
(meters, test strips, needles and syringes).

* obviously it’s not ‘free’ as I pay my taxes to fund it but you know what I mean.

Next up – insulin availability and pricing

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