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Prescriptions and Medications

Switzerland - Prescriptions and Medications

If you need medicines for minor ailments in Switzerland you can buy these from a pharmacy. In German, this is Apotheke, in French it is phramacie, in Italian farmacia. Look for a green cross which may additionally show the pharmacists symbol of a set of measuring scales with a coiled snake. Pharmacies typically open from 08:30 to 18:00 Monday to Friday, closing earlier on a Saturday and are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Every train station will normally have a pharmacy and you can also find one at every airport. The supermarket Coop also has a chain of pharmacies.

Out of hours pharmacies exist, although there is an emergency surcharge of around CHF 20. The station pharmacy will often have extended opening hours and may even be open 24 hours, 7 days a week, but you can also check the SOS Pharmacy website to find out a pharmacy offering an out of hours service as this can vary from week to week on a rota basis. The site is available in English at SOS Pharmacy

You will only need a prescription for strong medication, and can self-treat minor illnesses and injuries by buying common medicines direct from your pharmacist. The pharmacist will be able to offer advice on treating non-serious illness and injury (however, charges apply). You will need to show proof of your medical insurance when buying medicine and will later receive a bill which you will pay and then send a copy to your insurer (who will either note it on your record or, if you have paid your full excess for the year and are due a contribution, they will send this on to you).

As well as paying for your medicine, if you go to a pharmacy to have medicine dispensed for the first time they will also charge you an administration fee of a few Swiss francs which will open a personal record for you on their systems. You will also be charged for any advice you receive or if the pharmacist feels it necessary to check anything with your doctor before dispensing.

Your doctor will prescribe a particular brand of medicine, but there are often generic equivalents available through the pharmacy which will cost significantly less. In fact, if a generic equivalent exists and you are dispensed the branded medicine, you can be charged a higher insurance excess/deductible for it. It's up to you to remember to ask the pharmacy to dispense the generic medicine.

Due to the high costs of medicine in Switzerland, expats living near the border sometimes journey into Germany or France to have medicine dispensed by a pharmacist.

Useful Resources

Largest Swiss pharmacy network, visit website for branch locator

Coop Vitality Apotheke
Coop (supermarket) run pharmacies, visit website for branch locator

Read more about this country

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