After 4 months of travelling my insulin supplies were starting to run low. I use the NovoRapid FlexPen insulin and the Sanofi Lantus insulin and only had 3 of each injection left. This would last me for a while as I have greatly reduced my insulin intake due to the amount of exercise I’m doing, the different foods I’ve been eating and the total change in lifestyle. To be honest I don’t think my diabetes control has ever been better. Anyway, I needed to stock up on some supplies as the plan is to head over to Laos in a couple of days and I felt I would have more chance of getting the insulin I needed in Vietnam. After an unsuccessful attempt of finding the insulin in Hoi An I continued my way slowly north, stopping in a few places in between until I arrived in Hanoi. I had sent a couple of emails out, one to NovoNordisk and one to Sanofi asking where abouts in Vietnam I could get the insulin. NovoNordisk were a great help, they forwarded my e-mail to their Vietnam representative who sent me a couple of emails asking about my well-being and how urgent the need for insulin was. They gave me a list of pharmacies where I could purchase the NovoRapid insulin and gave me a rough price bracket as to what I should be paying. They also asked where I would be staying in Hanoi so to give me as list of the nearest pharmacies. Perfect! Sanofi on the other hand did not reply at all, they were no help whatsoever and have rubbish customer service! Because of this I wrote an e-mail to the French hospital located in Hanoi and they replied saying they have both insulins in their pharmacy but I would need to make an appointment with one of their doctors and take with me my prescription from home along with me. They said that to save time I could call the hospital and book an appointment in advance. However I felt like the list of pharmacies that NovoNordisk gave me would be the better option and if I couldn’t get my Lantus I would then book an appointment at the hospital. In order to hopefully get a quicker response I wrote the title of each e-mail “URGENT – Insulin in Vietnam.”
Upon arrival in Hanoi I had bookmarked the 3 recommended pharmacies on my Maps.me app, a great application that everyone should get if travelling, as it can locate where you are and give you walking, cycling and driving directions even when offline. I made my way to the first recommended pharmacy, Nguyen Luan Pharmacy, no. 3 Trang Thi Street. I was a bit silly though, I got there at 12:05 after having a bit of a relaxed morning, forgetting that almost everywhere in Vietnam shuts for lunch. The pharmacy didn’t reopen until 14:00 so I had some time to kill. This wasn’t too much of a problem, there was a sports bar round the corner called O’Reillys, which had some nice food, sport on the TV and cheapish beer. I haven’t been to a city yet that hasn’t had an Irish bar! I made myself laugh though, I’m sitting there waiting to get some life saving medication whilst enjoying some ice-cold refreshing beer and some nachos.
Anyway, I went back to the pharmacy at 14:00 and the lady at the window spoke very good English. I explained that I was diabetic, needed 5 of each injection to tick me over until Christmas and that I had my prescription with me if needed. She went out the back and brought out boxes of both injections. Perfect! The thing that wasn’t perfect was the price, 1 NovoRapid FlexPen cost 270000 Dong (£9.70) and 1 Lantus FlexPen cost 320000 (£11.40). However I needed to get the insulin, I knew they might not have it in Laos due to it being one of the poorest countries in Asia and I had factored in the majority of the cost into my budget. I was however not expecting to have to pay £102, I did pay it though, I really had no choice. The price was on the box per injection so I knew she wasn’t trying to scam me, the injections had been kept in the fridge and I checked the date on each one. Everything seemed ok and I only needed 5 of each as my parents are flying to India on 27th December and the plan is to meet them there, so hopefully they can bring me insulin with them. I got back to the hostel, soaked my FRIO packs and put the insulin inside, ready to continue my adventures around the world. NovoNordisk have since contacted me asking if everything is okay and if I got the insulin, I think they took the URGENT e-mail very literally.