Fortunately, finding a pharmacy in Singapore shouldn’t be hard. There are several large chain stores that call themselves pharmacies. However, you should be aware of a local peculiarity: in Singapore, not every so-called pharmacy sells all kinds of medication.
Actually, there are three classes of medicine, according to official regulations:
As the name implies, the first kind of medical drugs requires a prescription from a doctor. The second is prescription-free, but may only be sold by qualified pharmacists; the last one can be purchased everywhere, including retail stores.
The sort of “retail” pharmacy mentioned above is sometimes rather like a large drugstore situated in one of the many shopping malls in Singapore: it sells beauty and wellness products, as well as health supplements or general sales medicine. Chains like Watsons or Guardian usually have a dedicated pharmacy counter, where other kinds of medication are available.
If a pharmacy in Singapore says it “dispenses” medication, you should be able to purchase prescription meds there. Moreover, you should take into account that what may be an over-the-counter drug back home can be prescription-only abroad, or vice versa.
So what do you do if you need to fill a prescription? Pharmacies in Singapore’s hospitals dispense prescription drugs to outpatients and retail customers. All eight public hospitals have their own pharmacy in Singapore, and so do some of the city’s private medical facilities, like Mount Elizabeth Hospital or Parkway East Hospital. Furthermore, most public polyclinics (like those run by SingHealth, in Bukit Merah, Geylang, Tampines, and Pasir Ris) and private medical clinics have an attached pharmacy.
The Ministry of Health provides an easily accessible directory of registered pharmacists. Although they are individually listed, rather than by the pharmacy they work for, the search mask allows you to look for addresses by location, too. But no matter which pharmacy in Singapore you go to, you should know that even hospital pharmacies may not be open after hours, unless they are part of the A&E department. To get urgently needed medication, it’s easiest to go to a 24/7 medical clinic plus pharmacy. The private Raffles Clinic at Singapore International Airport is popular for this purpose.
If you prefer Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to the prescription drugs favored by Western medicine, Singapore provides plenty of opportunities to get Chinese medical materials (CMM) as well. Officially licenseed TCM practitioners will recommend you their favorite Chinese pharmacy in Singapore. Also, even big retail pharmacies, like Watsons, often sell CMM products. What can be rather more difficult than making use of TCM is bringing your own medication to Singapore.
If you’d like to import medication for personal use, there are two factors to consider as far as customs regulations are concerned: first, you must find out if your meds contain any active ingredient classified as a controlled substance under Singapore’s anti-narcotic laws. Secondly, you need to have the required paperwork at hand.
To identify controlled substances, please check the list provided by the Health Sciences Authority and talk to your doctor about it. Substances outlawed in Singapore due to their addictive or psychotropic nature may still be contained in some kinds of medication. For example, Diazepam can be used to treat epileptic attacks or severe insomnia, while ketamine is occasionally prescribed to relieve nerve pain. In case that any drug of yours has such ingredients, you need to apply for an official import permit.
At least two weeks before your planned date of arrival, send the respective application form via post, fax, or email to:
Audit and Licensing Division
Health Products Regulation Group
Health Sciences Authority
11 Biopiolis Way
Fax: (+65) 64789068
Don’t forget to provide information on the drug’s brand name and effective ingredients, as well as the required dosage, the quantities you want to import, a letter from your doctor, flight details and the intended length of your stay, passport details, and contact info in Singapore. If you want to stay for a longer period and need a refill for this kind of medication, your local doctor also needs permission from the Health Sciences Authority.
If you’d like to import over-the-counter or non-controlled medication, you still have to watch out for a couple of things. For one, you may only take sufficient supplies for your personal use. Keep the medicine in its original packaging, complete with package insert, or label them clearly. You should be able to show a letter from your doctor or a copy of the original prescription. You don’t have to declare your medication, but if your baggage is searched during a random routine check, make sure to have the necessary documents ready.
Once your imported supply is running out, you may have to see a Singaporean doctor for a new prescription and buy the meds at a “dispensing” pharmacy in Singapore.
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