We're headed to Malaysia & Singapore in a month or so. I've got arthritic knees and I know we're going to be doing a lot of walking. My knees will put up with a fair amount of this, but it can be a grunt walking through the pain until the endorphins kick in.

I generally manage the pain on a day-to-day basis in the US with Tylenol (Panadol) and either ibuprofen (Advil here in the states) or naproxen sodium (Aleve). I generally carry Tramadol in a prescription bottle which is somewhat effective, and I think I can get diclofenac OTC in Asia (its prescription only here in North America). I've been encouraged in another thread to carry gabapentin as well, can I get that OTC in Malaysia or Singapore, or do I need to get a prescription for it over here before I go?

I plan to have both knees injected with steroids prior to leaving in the hopes of having it last through the trip.

See 2023 update below.

  • 1
    This is a very useful update that I'm sure will be useful to others, but it would be better for it to be written as an answer rather than edited into the question. It is fine and very much encouraged to post answers to your own questions!
    – MJeffryes
    Jun 16 at 10:44
  • Done, thanks for the poke.
    – delliottg
    Jun 16 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


Diclofenac appears to be available at Guardian (a large local pharmacy chain in both countries), gabapentin (Neurontin) appears to be prescription only per a search on the HSA website. Note that a prescription obtained overseas will not be accepted by a Singaporean or Malaysian pharmacy.

However, you can bring that prescription to a local doctor (general practitioner, "GP"), who will happily issue you a local one, or even dispense on the spot if they have it available. Most local GPs in Singapore accept walk-in patients, no reservation needed, and the cost of a consultation is ridiculously low by US standards ($20-ish). Malaysia will be even cheaper.

Also, do not bring Tramadol or any other opioid pain medication in Singapore or Malaysia if you can help it, they're considered narcotics and the penalties if caught are extreme. If you must, Singapore has a cumbersome licensing process that you'll need to kick off well in advance of your visit.

  • Thanks for the information. I've brought Tramadol / Ultram on every trip I've made to SE Asia thus far with no problems, but then again my bags have never been searched that I'm aware of. I always bring them in a prescription bottle, making possibly the naive assumption that that was OK. Do you have a citation for where it's against the law to bring prescribed narcotics into the countries?
    – delliottg
    May 23, 2015 at 16:56
  • Some research on SG's requirements shows that Tramadol isn't on their Appendix A of controlled substances. So I appear to be OK in that regard. I'll also check into MY's requirements.
    – delliottg
    May 23, 2015 at 19:07
  • Misuse of Drugs Act, sec. 7: Importing controlled substances without an HSA license is an offense, period. I'm mildly surprised to see that Tramadol appears to be missing from the controlled drugs list though, wouldn't hurt to double-check with HSA. statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/…. May 24, 2015 at 9:26
  • In my experience most GPs (at least those I've used) will not give you a prescription, but might sell you the medication directly.
    – drat
    Jun 3, 2015 at 0:55

2023 Update: We're headed to SE Asia again for about a month. My arthritic knees have both been replaced with shiny new artificial knees, so that pain's been eliminated, but since you can't go unpunished, I've now been diagnosed with "severe degenerative bone disease (arthritis) in L1-L5".

I can generally manage the pain with Tylenol (Panadol) & Ibuprofen, and really it's only bad when I first wake up. That said, we're flying into Singapore on a 15 hour direct flight. That means me sitting on my butt in an uncomfortable chair for a very long time.

So, I did research on narcotics again, and found that Singapore has a new tool you can use to check if you can bring a list of drugs into the country. You can use it here: HSA Personal Medications. Tramadol's still not on the list, but Panadeine is, if you bring >= 20 tablets with you (search for codeine phosphate, which is the narcotic). So, I'll have a bottle of prescription Tramadol and a sleeve of Panadeine I've been saving for our next trip with me.

If you're curious about bringing similar things into Malaysia (where we'll be going this trip as well), here's where to read about it. It's a bit more cumbersome than Singapore's tool:

Bringing medication into Malaysia.

Hopefully someone finds this useful.

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