You won’t have a lot of trouble getting medicine in the UAE. Painkillers and cough medicine are widely available and easily accessible — you can simply get them at the supermarket. Many medicines that you have to get at the pharmacy are available without a prescription, antibiotics for example. However, there are some drugs for which you do need a prescription in the UAE. This can be confusing, as these include medicines which are available without a prescription in most Western countries.
Most pharmacies are open from Saturday to Thursday from 09:00 to 21:00 — sometimes with a break in between, and sometimes until later. Many hospitals have 24-hour pharmacies — you can find all 24-hour pharmacies on these lists for Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
If you take specific medication on a regular basis, you should make sure that you know the exact active ingredient(s) and strength of the medicine. Because the same brands aren’t necessarily sold worldwide, medications often have different manufacturers and names in every country, which means that there’s a big chance that the pharmacies in the UAE won’t have the exact same brand. This can mean that you will need a new prescription from a local doctor, as the foreign prescription won’t be accepted because it doesn’t meet local standards.
Something to keep in mind is that tranquillizers, anti-depressants, and several sleeping pills are completely banned from the UAE. You can find a list of all restricted medication on this website. This controlled medication might be available in hospital pharmacies, so talk to your doctor before entering the UAE to see how your medication can be imported or if you can purchase them with a prescription note.
If you want to import your prescription medicines, you’re allowed to bring up to a twelve months’ supply with you into the country. However, always make sure that you have a prescription or a letter from your doctor. Narcotic medicines can’t be imported without prior approval from the Ministry of Health in the Emirates. If you want more information, you can contact the Drug Control Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or check the Ministry of Health’s website for the latest updates. For more information about what items are prohibited or require prior approval, see our article about customs regulations in the UAE.
Medication used to be quite expensive in the UAE, but the government has been reducing the prices over the past few years, and the process isn’t finished yet. However, it is wise to keep all the receipts from your purchases so you can claim them on your health insurance.
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