Need expat info for Switzerland?
Pharmacies in Switzerland: One on Every Corner
At a Glance:
- Most pharmacists in Switzerland keep a record of your medication in a patient file, giving you a more personal and organized experience.
- There are two types of medication: medicines that you must have a prescription for and medicines that you can buy over the counter.
- Medication in Switzerland is among the most expensive in Europe, so bringing some essential painkillers and cold medicine is highly recommended.
Prescriptions and Pills
A visit to the pharmacy doesn’t always need to be to pick up a prescription — a pharmacist is always a good first point of call for advice if you are feeling a bit under the weather. It can also be quite a personal experience, with the majority of pharmacies keeping patient files on their frequent visitors.
To open a patient file, all you need to do is pay a small fee the first time you visit the pharmacy of your choice. It’s definitely worth it to have all your medication information stored in one place, especially for those who tend to be a bit on the forgetful side. However, your patient file is only accessible at the pharmacy you opened it with, so if you visit another pharmacy, they won’t have access to your notes.
Types of Medication
There are two different types of medication in Switzerland; those which you can only get with a prescription from a doctor, and those that are readily available and can be purchased over the counter.
Roughly one-third of all medication offered in Switzerland can only be purchased if the patient has had it prescribed to them. Swiss pharmacies tend not to accept prescriptions from foreign doctors, so it’s best to visit a Swiss doctor if you think you’ll need a prescription.
Prescription medicine is covered by basic health insurance policies, but the patient still has to pay 10% of the cost. Medicines that are not prescription-only must be paid for in full by the patient. It may be worth bringing a supply of basic medications with you to Switzerland, as medicine prices in Switzerland are famously amongst the highest in Europe.
How Do I Pay for Prescription Medication?
Most health insurance companies provide patients with a health insurance card when they first choose a basic health insurance scheme. When paying for your prescribed medicine, you present this insurance card and the pharmacy will then charge your insurance company 90% of the cost. Some pharmacies will let you pay your 10% then and there, while others will ask you to pay through an invoice sent to you by your insurance company.
If you don’t have an insurance card, you normally have to pay for the medication upfront yourself. Then, after you send a copy of the receipt and prescription to your insurance company, they will reimburse you.
When Are Pharmacies Open?
The majority of pharmacies in Switzerland are open six days a week, from Monday to Saturday. Their normal business hours are between 8:00 and 18:00 (17:00 on a Friday), and the majority are closed for lunch between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00.
In the case of an emergency, there is normally one out-of-hours pharmacy in every district. Be prepared to pay more, however, as medicine prices are a lot higher at out-of-hours pharmacies. To find your local pharmacy that is open around the clock, check the SOS Pharmacy Website.
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