Drugs requiring prescriptions in the West are often available over the counter in Vietnam, sometimes quite inexpensively. You may be able to fill prescriptions at private pharmacies, and if not, they can be taken care of at the French hospital, the Family Medical or SOS clinics. Local pharmacies can fill foreign prescriptions, but may not have the exact name-brand available in your home country. If you ask your doctor to write out the generic ingredients of a prescription, you may be able to fill it conveniently and inexpensively at Hanoi’s many neighborhood pharmacies.
Local pharmacists generally do not speak English though, of course, there are exceptions. If you need specific information or advice, you are best advised to go to the pharmacy at one of the English-language medical institutions in Hanoi. If a local pharmacist cannot understand the medicine you are asking for, try writing it down–for example, ibuprofen is widely available, and all pharmacists will recognize it when written, but may not understand it in spoken English.
Pharmacies are often clustered around hospitals and clinics. While pharmacists may be able to recommend treatments for mild ailments–headaches, colds, rashes, etc.–it is often wise to see a physician or do internet research yourself to find the best medicines. Local pharmacists may offer medicines without being fully aware, or adequately concerned, about side effects.
For English-speaking and 24-hour pharmacy help, go to one of the English-speaking facilities listed in the “Best Facilities” section. Like most industries in Hanoi, pharmacies are extremely localized and decentralized, and there are usually a handful in every neighborhood. If you can’t get what you need in your area, there are rows and rows of pharmacies on these streets: Tran Thi, Ngoc Khanh, Lang Ha, and Tran Huy Lieu. These local pharmacies sell a large selection of medicines and drugs, in addition to over the counter medical supplies such as dressings, salves, and hot water bottles.