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Prescriptions and Medications

New Zealand - Prescriptions and Medications

When you need a prescription in New Zealand you should be aware that pharmacists are only able to process a prescription that has been issued by a New Zealand doctor. Prescriptions issued in your home country can only be processed there. If you need regular medication you should register with a GP and consult them as soon as possible as some medications may not be available in New Zealand and you may need to be prescribed an alternative. You should also be aware that some medications which are available over the counter in other countries can only be issued with a prescription in New Zealand.

The government organisation Pharmac is responsible for determining which medications are available and which will be subsidised by the government.

The standard cost for a prescription in New Zealand is $15. Medications which are not subsidised by the government can cost a little more. Those who qualify for public health services and disability benefits should only pay $3 per prescription. Specialist prescriptions may be charged at the higher rate of $15. Prescriptions that have been issued for children under the age of 6 years are usually free of charge. Over the counter medications are not subsidised and consumers need to pay the full cost. It is possible for a person to obtain a pharmaceutical subsidy card for themselves and other members of the family to get prescription medication at a lower rate. This is not means tested and is aimed at those who may need regular medication but who do not have any other card for discounted services such as the CSC or the HUHC. The pharmacist is able to issue one of these cards when the family has had 20 prescriptions which have been paid for, even if they were subsidised medications.

It is usual for pharmacies to have only one professional pharmacist. As in the UK you are able to take advice on medications from the pharmacist for some conditions, but not all staff are qualified to advise you.

It should be noted that some pharmacists charge an ‘intervention fee’ if the customer wants a subsidised medication rather than the brand that has been prescribed by the doctor. This is normally in the region of $1 per prescription, but there are many pharmacists who do not make this charge. In some areas the local pharmacist will deliver the medication to your home, although you will pay an additional fee for this.

Most areas have pharmacies which are open during normal shopping hours, from 8 am to 6 pm. There are also out of hours services in some areas which are open until 10 pm.

Pharmacies use different symbols in New Zealand, ranging from the cross to the pestle and mortar and the ‘Rx’ prescription sign.

Many pharmacies in New Zealand are independent pharmacies which are often owned by the pharmacist. However, there are a number of chains which are often operated as franchises. Amcal is one of the largest chains and is run by Sigma Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Another is Unichem, which is part of the same group which runs the Boots the Chemist stores in the UK.

Useful Resources



PO Box 10-254
Wellington 6143
New Zealand
Tel: 0800 660 050
Email: webmaster@pharmac.govt.nz

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.