Pharmacy in Germany: A Comprehensive Guide for Expats

When relocating to Germany, it's essential for expats to familiarize themselves with the healthcare system, including pharmacies. German pharmacies play a crucial role in providing prescription medication and non-prescription drugs to the population. In this article, we will explore pharmacies in Germany, the difference between "Apotheke" and drugstores, the availability of prescription and non-prescription medicines, how to find a pharmacy, and the cost of prescriptions.

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Understanding Pharmacies and Prescriptions in Germany

Pharmacies in Germany play a vital role in providing essential medications and healthcare products to the population. Understanding the difference between pharmacies and drugstores, knowing what you can buy in a pharmacy, and being aware of how to find one are essential for expats.

Additionally, comprehending the cost of prescriptions and the availability of emergency pharmacies will ensure that you have access to the necessary healthcare resources during your stay in Germany. Remember, pharmacists are valuable sources of information and guidance, so don't hesitate to seek their expert advice when needed.

Is Germany Good for Pharmacy?

Germany is renowned for its robust healthcare system, and its pharmacies are no exception. The country's focus on patient safety, rigorous regulations, and highly-trained pharmacists make it an excellent environment for pharmacy services. The emphasis on quality and adherence to strict standards ensures that patients receive the best possible care and access to medications.

Pharmacies in Germany (Apotheke) are regulated by the German law. They ensure the safe distribution of prescription and non-prescription medicines.

Apotheke vs. drug store in Germany: What is the difference?

In Germany, there is a distinction between "Apotheke" (pharmacies) and drugstores. While both sell non-prescription medication, there are key differences.

Apotheke: Pharmacies are the only establishments authorized to dispense prescription medicine. They have at least one trained pharmacist who can provide personalized advice and guidance regarding medications, potential interactions, and proper usage. Apotheken also offer a wide range of over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and health products.

Drug store: Drug stores (Drogerie) sell non-prescription drugs, personal care products, cosmetics, and household items. They do not have licensed pharmacists and cannot dispense prescription medicine.

What Can You Buy in a German Pharmacy?

German pharmacies offer a comprehensive range of products, including:

Prescription Medication:

Pharmacies are the primary source for obtaining prescribed medications such as antibiotics in Germany. Patients must present a doctor's prescription they got at a doctor's office to purchase these medications.

Non-prescription Medicine

Medicines: Pharmacies provide a wide selection of non-prescription drugs, including pain relievers, flu and cold remedies, digestive aids, allergy medications, and topical creams.

Homeopathic products:

Many German pharmacies offer herbal and natural remedies, which are commonly used for various ailments.

Health Products:

Pharmacies also stock a variety of health-related products and consumer items, such as vitamins, supplements, first aid supplies, medical devices, and personal care items.

How to Find a Pharmacy in Germany?

Locating a pharmacy in Germany is easy, as they are widely available in urban and rural areas. Look for the "Apotheke" sign, usually displayed outside the premises. Additionally, online directories and mobile apps can help you locate nearby pharmacies, provide information on opening hours, and offer navigation assistance.

It's important to note that in smaller towns and rural areas, pharmacies may take turns operating on weekends and holidays. Information about the nearest emergency pharmacy that is open after the standard shop opening times and on public holidays can be found online, at local pharmacies, or by calling the emergency hotline number.

Cost of Prescriptions in Germany

The cost of prescriptions in Germany can vary depending on several factors, including the specific medication, health insurance coverage, and individual co-payment requirements. Patients with public health insurance usually pay a fixed percentage (co-payment) of the medication's cost, while patients with private health insurance individuals may have different arrangements with their insurance company about covering prescription cost based on their insurance policies. But mostly privately insured persons don't have a co-payment.

It's advisable to consult with your health insurance provider to understand the coverage and associated costs. Additionally, pharmacies may offer discounts and loyalty programs, providing further cost-saving opportunities for patients.

For non-prescription medicine patients normally have to pay full price without coverage of their health insurance.

Additional Services Provided by Pharmacies

Apart from dispensing medications, German pharmacies offer various additional services to enhance patient care:

Medication Counseling:

Pharmacists are available to answer questions about possible treatments and correct dosages, provide information, and offer advice on medication usage, potential side effects, and drug interactions. They can help ensure that patients understand how to take their medications properly and address any concerns or doubts.

Prescription Management:

Pharmacies maintain records of patients' prescription history, facilitating accurate and timely refills. This service helps patients keep track of their medications and ensures they receive them when needed.

Medication Reviews:

Pharmacists may conduct medication reviews to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of a patient's medication regimen. They can identify potential issues such as duplications, interactions, or adverse effects, working closely with patients and healthcare providers to optimize medication therapy.

What to do when the pharmacy is closed and you need medicine?

While pharmacies in Germany provide comprehensive services and have convenient operating hours, there may be situations when you require medication outside of regular business hours. Whether it's a sudden illness, an unexpected need for a prescription refill, or an emergency situation, there are options available to ensure you have access to the medication you need.

Emergency Pharmacies (Notdienst Apotheke):

In Germany, emergency pharmacies (Notdienst Apotheke) provide 24-hour service during nights, weekends, and holidays. These pharmacies rotate on a schedule, ensuring that emergency medication and advice are always available. Information about the nearest emergency pharmacy can be found online or can be asked in pharmacies. It's important to note that emergency pharmacies may be different from your regular pharmacy, so be prepared to visit a different location during off-hours.

Online Pharmacies:

In recent years, the availability of online pharmacies has increased. Online pharmacies offer the convenience of ordering medication from the comfort of your own home and can provide delivery services. However, it's crucial to exercise caution when using online pharmacies to ensure that you are purchasing from a reputable source. Look for pharmacies that require a prescription for prescription medications and display clear contact information and certifications on their websites.

Seek Medical Assistance:

If you require immediate medical attention and are unable to access a pharmacy, contact 116 117 if you need medical assistance after regular hours or in an emergency call 112 go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Marie-Theres Rüttiger
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Marie-Theres is online editor for health and insurance topics at ottonova. She designs the editorial plan, researches and writes mainly about (e-)health and innovation that make life better.

ottonova sales experts
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