Any prescription you receive from a doctor in Germany needs to be filled at a pharmacy (Apotheke). Pharmacies can be found all over German cities and towns, and are instantly-recognisable by the large red “A” on their signs. As well as dispensing prescription drugs, pharmacies in Germany also provide a range of over-the-counter medications. They are often confused with drugstores (Drogerie), where you can get toiletries, but not medication.
Your prescription (Rezept) can be filled at any pharmacy in Germany. Note that the laws on dispensing drugs are very strict in Germany and you will not be able to get medication, such as antibiotics, without a valid prescription from a German doctor (foreign prescriptions are not accepted).
Cost of prescriptions in Germany
Depending on the type of health insurance you have, you might be expected to pay some or even all of the cost of the prescription drugs upfront:
- If you are covered by statutory health insurance, you are expected to pay a small nominal fee of 10% of the prescription cost (a minimum of 5 euros and a maximum of 10 euros).
- If you are privately insured, you will usually pay the whole cost upfront and then later claim for reimbursement from your insurance company.
In pharmacies, all the drugs, even non-prescription drugs, are usually kept behind the counter. You can buy other drugs, such as painkillers or cold remedies, without a prescription, but you will usually have to have a quick chat with the pharmacist about your symptoms.
Pharmacists in Germany are highly trained and can offer good advice about possible treatments and correct dosages. In this way, they constitute another pillar of care in the German healthcare system in their own right. Note that non-prescription medication is not covered by your health insurance and so you will have to pay the full price.
German pharmacy opening hours
Pharmacies in Germany usually stick to standard shop-opening times and are closed evenings, Sundays and public holidays. If you need medication outside of normal working hours, you can also visit your local emergency pharmacy. Most towns and cities will have at least one emergency pharmacy that is open evenings, weekends and public holidays. You may be charged an additional supplement to use the out-of-hours service.
Some hospitals in Germany will also have an onsite pharmacy, giving you the option of filling your prescription there rather than going to your local pharmacy.