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In question 'Is it necessary to take malaria pills when travelling in South India?' we discussed whether it is necessary to take any medication. So if one has decided to take the pills, is it possible to buy them in India rather than buying them at home? If so, are all different types available and how much are they?

For my last trip in South East Asia I bought a good bunch of mefloquine pills in London for a lot of money. Because I stayed longer than planned and run out of them eventually, I had to buy more locally and there were much cheaper in SEA. (Yes, I do think they were the real thing!)

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depending on what malaria pills you need for the area, you may have to start taking them weeks before the start of your trip. So find that out first. And why shouldn't they be available in an area where malaria is rampant? –  jwenting Feb 1 '12 at 13:40
    
I am aware of the fact that I have to take them a few weeks before but I will already have been in India for a while before I will visit the affected areas. Yes, you would think they sell the medication in areas where it is needed. But from my own experience that is not always the case. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 1 '12 at 14:00
    
just an FYI, if your doctor in London says Doxycycline is ok for India, they were like 4 quid for 3 months' supply... –  Mark Mayo Feb 1 '12 at 23:44
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Tr mosquito-repellent sprays or creams like Odomos. –  escist Jun 5 '12 at 14:47
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@escist - I used Odomos all the time, it seem to work pretty well. –  Peter Hahndorf Jun 5 '12 at 19:44

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

IMO Malaria medicines are not very much required,but if you want them,they are commonly available in India.Though malaria medicines are quite readily available in rural India also, I would recommend buying them from nearby city as quality of drugs in rural India may not be good(drugs may be fake). Wherever you buy drugs in India,insist on taking receipt as it more or less ensures original drugs and if any drugstore hesitates to provide you proper receipts,don't trust it.Keep in mind that in India, government provides important drugs quite cheaply,so you may get them from government hospitals probably for free or extremely cheaply(again don't rely on rural hospitals please).

However please keep in mind that malaria should not be your most important insect borne concern.Other diseases like dengue etc are more common there.

A suggestion:If you want to visit rural India(as it appears),please consider mosquito repellant cream or you can use what locals call a mosquito coil (though I hated the smell and think that the gas is not healthy). Best advise would be to use a mosquito net. It is awesome not only for protection against mosquitoes but also against many other insects(though you may not like it if you are visiting India in summer).

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thanks Reid, I do always take repellent even in non-malaria area because bites are always annoying. But from experience, however even with lots of repellent and lots or clothes and mosquito nets, these little buggers always manage to bite me somehow. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 1 '12 at 16:30
    
Mosquito net gives you 100% safety if properly used.Take a big mosquito net(so that you wouldn't touch it while sleeping). Most important thing while using mosquito net is to ensure that no insects come inside the net if you leave your bed for say,going to toilet.Also ensure that you put some part of net below your mattress and it is taut.You'll be fine.Happy journey.. –  Reid Feb 1 '12 at 17:04
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I agree, once you are inside a proper net you are okay, but then they get you on the way to or on the toilet. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 1 '12 at 17:09
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talk to a local to show you proper way.Just shake it ;-) and wait till the mosquitoes left the net,then quickly come outside and put some part of net below your mattress and go.Repeat while coming in. –  Reid Feb 1 '12 at 17:13
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And put some insect repellant on the net as well. It just might help a bit in some way. –  John Doe Feb 1 '12 at 21:55

I read a lot about malaria prevention in India and also read dozen articles (since that's my profession) about malaria prevention worldwide. After reading all that, even though I'm a treat for mosquitoes (and get 150-200 bites per summer), I decided not to take any prophylaxis regarding malaria but will only use a mosquito net and bug repellants. Actually, India is not that dangerous when it comes to malaria and that myth that you must take antimalarial medication is staying alive because of the pharmaceutical companies.

There's no doubt that malaria is still present in some parts but it's not that common any more, especially for a tourist.

Quinine and similar drugs are very effective but you have to start taking them before you visit the affected areas because it takes about 10 days for them to start protecting you. That's the main downside. The other disadvantage is the price as they are quite expensive outside affected countries. The one that I would suggest from this category is Mefloquine (usually going by the name Lariam) since you don't have to take the pill every day but on weekly basis. None of these drugs are of lesser quality in India compared to UK or any other country and they are several times cheaper there. Don't worry about that if you do choose to use antimalarial pills.

Other option, especially if you have darker skin and are not prone to sunburns, is to use Doxycycline. The best thing about it is that it's dirt cheap everywhere you look for it and you can start using it just a couple of days before getting to malaria affected areas. It's also a regular antibiotic (I believe it's the second most widely used class of antibiotics in the world) which is less likely to cause any indigestion problems, or any other, for that matter.

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All very good points but they don't answer my question, so I accept Reid's answer. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 17 '12 at 21:34

It depends on the drug - many need to be in your system for some time before they'll actually start protecting you, so if you buy them on site you have a period of time when you're both at risk and not actively protected.

If price really is a problem, and its an issue of it being cheap or you going without, consider Doxycycline as an option. It's by far the cheapest of the anti-malarials, enough so that I was able to pay for it out of pocket as a graduate student. It's major downside is it will make you more sensitive to sunburn, but the use of a hat and sunscreen can help address those problems, and should probably be used when traveling in India anyway. I didn't find it enough of a problem when I was in Africa to regret my decision, but to each their own.

I would say you should take something. While malaria is treatable at this point, and it isn't an issue of you dying, malaria will ruin your trip if you get it.

While mosquito netting is awesome, it only protects you while you're under the net.

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So I decided not to buy any in advance and now I am in India (Chennai) and first I couldn't find any pharmacies at all. Then I found some but they did not have any malaria medication. On the third day I finally found the place that had my choice: Mefloquine. In Germany one pill was about 6 Euros, here it was just over 1 Euro.

So they are available and much cheaper, but not on any corner.

BTW, I was bitten about 50 times in the first night alone.

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Try nationwide pharmacy chains such as Apollo Pharmacies or anything that is 'big' rather than a corner shop. Am surprised though you had a hard time finding one, what part of Chennai are you staying in? –  Ankur Banerjee Mar 1 '12 at 8:25

Mefloquine (tradename Lariam) is easily available at medical stores as well as Malarone is available at least in some places is India (e.g. Connaught Place in Mumbai). Or maybe you catch a foreign traveller with extra to sell.

But I wouln't recommend Mefloquine (Lariam) as antimalarial medicine, because there is controversy over it. Since its introduction, it has been directly linked to serious psychological side-effects including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams, nausea, vomiting, sores and homicidal and suicidal thoughts. Malarone has the fewest reported side effects and it's which is much more recommended in preventing and treating Malaria.

But you can try to buy Malarone before you go to India, in any pharmacy (even in some Tesco's). It is better to buy them in advance by making the appointment with your doctor. If you can't, you may try to buy it on-line, there are several online pharmacies such as Total Pharmacy, Express Pharmacy, Travel Pharm, etc. After that usually you need to send your prescription via post. Please note that some fraudulent online pharmacies may attempt to sell an illegal generic version of Malarone. These medications may be counterfeit and potentially unsafe.

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