10 Popular Medications Singaporeans Are Buying in Malaysia: How Much Cheaper and Are They Safe?

It’s no secret that many Singaporeans regularly make the trip across the causeway to Johor Bahru, Malaysia to purchase everyday items like groceries and fuel. But beyond the lure of cheaper household essentials lies a thriving medical tourism industry catering to Singaporeans seeking more affordable prescription medications.

In this article, we uncover the most popular prescription drugs Singaporeans are buying over the counter in Malaysia. We compare the prices and explain why the same medicines can cost so much less just across the border. Most importantly, we investigate if freely obtaining these prescription-only medications without doctor supervision poses any health risks that buyers should be aware of.

Why Prescription Medications Are Cheaper in Malaysia

According to popular Singaporean YouTuber Ryan Sylvester who has extensively compared consumer prices on both sides of the causeway, prescription medications for common conditions like high cholesterol, blood pressure, and even simple pain relief pills can be purchased at a fraction of the cost in Malaysia.

For instance, he shares that cholesterol medication can cost about $76 in Singapore but just $25 in JB. Some anaesthetic throat lozenges are $20 in Singapore but under $5 across the causeway.

Several factors contribute to the huge price difference:

  • Exchange Rate – The weaker Malaysian Ringgit compared to the Singapore Dollar means lower prices when converting.
  • Larger Market – Malaysia’s bigger population allows drug companies to manufacture at greater economies of scale and lower costs.
  • Competition – Hundreds of pharmacies packed side by side in JB malls versus fewer options in Singapore drive fierce price wars.
  • Generics – Unbranded generic equivalents, especially those made in Malaysia using local ingredients are far cheaper than patented drugs.
  • Lax Enforcement – Laws requiring prescriptions for certain medications are not strongly enforced.

As a result, Singaporeans have caught on to this “open secret” that has allowed them access to medications easily and affordably when across the causeway.

Top Medications Singaporeans Buy in Malaysia

During an investigative shopping trip across the causeway, here are some of the most popular prescription medications I was able to purchase from brick-and-mortar pharmacies in JB without a prescription:

  1. Lipitor (Cholesterol Drug) – $76 in Singapore vs $25 in Malaysia
  2. Ventolin Inhaler (Asthma Drug)- $20 in Singapore vs $7 in Malaysia
  3. Blood Pressure Medications – 50% to 70% cheaper
  4. Sleeping Pills – Valium available without prescription
  5. Antibiotics – Required prescription but some shops sell without
  6. Steroid Creams – No limits on amounts sold

Interviews with regular Singaporean drug buyers and pharmacists revealed that medications for common chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and asthma top the list of drugs frequently purchased in Malaysia.

Painkillers, sedatives, antibiotics and dermatological creams are also popular. Many make the trip specially to stock up on prescription medications for family members back in Singapore as well.

Buying Prescription Medications Online From Malaysia

Purchasing medications at physical pharmacies in JB is not the only option. Websites based in Malaysia offering delivery of drugs to Singapore have sprung up to meet demand as well.

One such site I came across promised delivery of medications straight to my doorstep in Singapore. To test it out, I ordered a prescription-only steroid cream called Triderm, used for skin conditions like eczema. The price was almost 50% cheaper than buying it at a Singapore pharmacy.

Delivery was prompt and smooth – no questions asked, no prescription required. But are drugs ordered this way as legit and safe as they seem? Read on to find out.

The Dangers of Buying Prescription Medications Without a Prescription

In Singapore, medications that require a doctor’s prescription are dispensed that way for good reason – they need supervision and monitoring to be used safely and appropriately on a case by case basis.

But in Malaysia, lax enforcement results in many pharmacies readily dispensing antibiotics, steroids and medications for chronic illnesses even without a prescription. While consumers enjoy the savings and convenience, what are some of the implications and risks?

Risk 1: Substandard or Fake Medications

When medications are bought online or from unknown sources, there is a risk of getting counterfeit or compromised drugs.

To test for this, the steroid cream I ordered online was sent for laboratory testing. Shockingly, it contained only 63.3% of its stated concentration of the active ingredient.

The compromised potency renders it less effective and calls into question the storage conditions and legitimacy of the online seller. Apart from creams, fake or substandard drugs are especially dangerous for medications that require precise dosing like insulin.

Risk 2: Lack of Doctor Monitoring

The pharmacist who reviewed the lab test results highlighted that prescription medications require doctor monitoring to tailor dosages and check for adverse effects.

For example, with cholesterol and blood pressure drugs, regular blood tests help indicate whether medications are working optimally or need adjustments. Skipping doctor visits prevents this.

Risk 3: Potential Misuse & Overuse

Self-medicating without doctor supervision raises the risk of potential misuse or overuse of certain drugs.

For instance, strong antibiotics need to be taken properly for the full course. Steroid creams, when used over large areas or for extended periods, can cause skin atrophy and other side effects without proper guidance.

Buying uncontrolled amounts of such medications increases these dangers.

The Safest Options for Buying Affordable Medications

Given the possible risks, what is the best way for Singaporeans to access cheaper medications from Malaysia safely? Here are some recommended options:

  • See a doctor first – Get diagnosed and obtain the proper prescriptions before purchasing medications overseas. Inform your doctor and follow up regularly.
  • Use reputable pharmacies – Purchase from major chains with proper storage facilities for drugs that require controlled temperatures.
  • Choose generics – Opt for unbranded generics that have passed regulatory approvals. Quality tests found some Malaysia-made generics to be on par with branded drugs in safety and efficacy.
  • Buy only what you need – Avoid hoarding large stocks of prescription medications. Purchase amounts suitable for short term use, and check expiry dates.


Crossing the causeway to purchase cheaper prescription medications in Malaysia is a common practice among Singaporeans seeking healthcare cost savings. From high blood pressure medications to antibiotics, popular drugs can often be bought over the counter easily at a fraction of Singapore prices.

However, lax enforcement of requiring prescriptions and improper storage conditions can result in substandard or compromised medications. Self-medicating without doctor monitoring also raises safety risks from misuse, under-dosing or over-dosing.

While alluring, buying prescription drugs in Malaysia should be approached with care and due diligence. Seeking professional medical advice first, using reputable pharmacies and generics when possible, and purchasing prudently helps maximizes savings safely and responsibly.