Pharmacy (Apotheke) Services

In Germany, you can get medicines from the pharmacy or drugstore, known as Apotheke in German, represented by a large red A.

Generally speaking, there are two types of medication:

  • Freely-available drugs ( for common illnesses such as headache, cold, etc)
  • Prescription drugs, which require a Rezept (prescription) from a doctor in order to be bought. The prescription from the doctor has to be presented to the pharmacist by the patient, to which the pharmacist can then issue the drug

Germany has a very strict law pertaining to prescriptions, meaning that medicine such as antibiotics which can be bought over the counter in your home country can be only bought in Germany with the prescription of a doctor.

As a student in Germany, you should ideally remember a few key points regarding the purchase of medicine in Germany. If you are part of a statutory health insurance company in Germany, the majority of the cost of prescription medicine is directly paid for by your health insurance company. Only a small minimal fee has to be paid by you, which depends on the cost of the medicine (Zuzahlungspflicht).

If you possess a private health insurance, you are required to pay for medication at the time of purchase, and then send the receipts of the drugs to your health insurance company for reimbursement.

There are two types of prescriptions that are generally handed by the doctor: the pink prescription and the green prescription. On April 1, 2004, the German government introduced a new system pertaining to the health insurance in the country, known as the system of “green prescription”, which basically applies to non-prescription drugs. This new system entails that the majority of the non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs are no longer reimbursed by the statutory (public) health insurance providers in the country. Hence, they have to be fully paid for by the patient. The pink prescription, on the other hand, has a cost that is partly covered by the health insurance provider of the patient.

If you are looking to buy over-the-counter (freely available) drugs, you are expected to pay the full cost of the drug. You should also remember that medicines in Germany are amongst the most expensive in Europe, and so it is advisable that you bring a fair supply of non-prescription painkillers and other such drugs with you.

The opening hours of pharmacies are similar to those of other shops: Monday to Friday 09:00-18:30, Saturday 09:00-13:00 (sometimes 16.00). However, there is always at least one pharmacy open 24 hours in every area. If you urgently require medication, the pharmacy emergency section (Apotheken-Notdienst) in the local newspapers provides the addresses of the pharmacies open outside normal working hours. You can also obtain this information from any local pharmacy, where a list and address of the closest open Notdienst is available.

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