How does the swiss pharmacy and drugs system work? An explanation
At a glance:
- The only place to buy drugs is usually in pharmacies.
- Drugs are classified into two main groups: nonprescription medicine (over the counter, OTC) and prescription drugs.
- Nonprescription drugs, such as medication against a headache or cough, can easily be purchased in pharmacies.
- For prescription drugs, you must see a medical doctor first. In some cantons, the canton of Zurich being one, medical doctors are forbidden to provide you with medication directly. Instead, the medical doctor issues a prescription, which can be then filled with us.
The swiss pharmacy and drug system is similar to systems in other countries, however, there are some differences. In Switzerland, drugs defined as products having medicinal promise (e.g. «helps against headache»), can exclusively be purchased in pharmacies, rarely in «Drogerien». In Switzerland, drugs are classified in several categories. The classification determines whether a product is available over-the-counter (OTC) or if a prescription is needed:
- Most drugs against minor illnesses or aches, for example. headaches or cough, can be purchased without a prescription. Simply visit us in the pharmacy and we will help you choose which medication is right for you.
- Several drugs such as antibiotics, drugs against cancer or high dosage pain relievers can only be purchased with a prescription from a medical doctor. Please bring your prescription and we will fill it for you.
Within Switzerland, depending on the canton, the laws for the distribution of medication by medical doctors differ. In the canton of Zurich, for instance, doctors are only allowed to issue you a prescription but cannot distribute drugs directly, in others they can do both.