The laws and regulations surrounding the purchase of medications in Italy are a little different from the United States and few other Western nations. Therefore, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the existing rules and regulations that you will need to follow in order to access routine prescriptions as well as emergency medications should your health situation require it.
How Do Expats Obtain Prescription Medicines In Italy?
As an Expat in Italy, you should have not have problems in accessing any prescription medicines you need, provided that you either have a private health insurance policy or are officially registered with the Italian Health Authority (SNN). Remember, as an Expat you have exactly the same rights to healthcare and prescription medicines as a local Italian, so long as you are properly registered or have private health insurance.
To obtain prescription medicines you will always need to consult with your Primary Care Physician. The cost of prescriptions in Italy is very cheap and in many cases, they are almost free. However, it’s worth noting that the price of medicine in Italy is not regulated by the government and so there is considerable variability between different brands.
What Is A Pharmacy Called In Italy?
A pharmacy in Italy is called a ‘Farmacia’. This literally translates to a ‘pharmacy shop’ or a ‘chemist’. The plural of Farmacia is ‘farmacies’.
How To Find A Pharmacy In Italy.
In any town or city in Italy, there are numerous pharmacies that you can access to fulfill your prescriptions. Almost all pharmacies in Italy have a green cross sign outside to make it easy for people to find them. The green color has actually been designated by law in Italy to be used by pharmacies so there can be no confusion in identifying them.
The large sign with a green cross will often have ‘Farmacia’ written on top too. As well as this highly recognizable symbol, many pharmacies also have a symbol of a snake coiling around a stick; a symbol of Asclepius that dates back to ancient Greece.
In some cases, a pharmacy may just have the word ‘FARMACIA’ written in green on its storefront sign, although this is quite unusual; so generally, just look for the equilateral green cross symbol.
How To Get A Prescription In Italy?
If you need a prescription in Italy then you must consult with a doctor. You cannot simply buy medicines over the counter at a pharmacy as you can in many other parts of the world. It’s worth keeping in mind that pharmacies cannot write you a prescription either. Only doctors can do this in Italy.
Pharmacists can recommend non-prescription over-the-counter medicines to you if you ask them for advice. However, if you need antibiotics you will have to get a prescription from a doctor.
When you visit your doctor you should ask for the generic name of the prescription medicine you want. This is because the brand names in Italy are often different from the brand names for the very same drug in America and other parts of Europe.
Non-prescription drugs can be accessed at a para-pharmacy that is not technically pharmacies but is still subjected to the regulations of the Italian Ministry of Health. You can also buy non-prescription drugs from any pharmacy in Italy, so it’s usually easiest just to go there if you need them.
If you are registered with the SNN then you will have to pay a very small fee for your prescription drugs but if you have private health insurance you may or may not have to pay, depending on the scope of your personal policy.
Who Can Fill Prescriptions In Italy?
Only doctors can sign off for you to get prescription drugs and only authorized pharmacies can fill those prescriptions.
What Does A Farmacia Sell In Italy?
Italian pharmacies provide a wide range of products, including:
- Prescription medications – both generic and branded.
- Over-the-counter, non-prescription medication.
- Homeopathic treatments.
- Vitamins, supplements and apothecary remedies.
- Basic health products, such as face masks, bandages, plasters, thermometers, hand gels, and so on.
- First Aid supplies and kits.
- Baby essentials, such as diapers, baby formula and diaper rash creams.
- Sunscreen, insect repellant and other miscellaneous items. Toiletries and beauty products.
Italian Pharmacy Opening Times.
Italian pharmacies are considered to be an essential public service and so they have slightly different opening hours to most other businesses.
Italian pharmacies are all open during the standard working hours and they usually shut for part of the afternoon, generally for a few hours at some point between 12 noon and 4 pm.
However, to ensure that people can always access prescription drugs, the pharmacies take turns in covering the hours when the other ones are closed in the afternoon and on the weekends.
Are There 24-Hour Pharmacies In Italy?
Whenever a local pharmacy is closed, it will have a sign on the door with a list of all the nearest after-hours pharmacies. These are known as ‘farmacia di turno’.
In all the larger towns and cities in Italy, you can find 24-hour pharmacies. The easiest way to find your nearest one is to do an online search for either ‘farmacie di turno vicino a me’ or a ‘farmacie 24h vicino a me’.
However, for understandable reasons, in villages and small towns, you may not have a local 24-hour pharmacy.
Does A Supermarket Have A Pharmacy?
In most Western countries you can buy over-the-counter medicines in a large supermarket, however, in Italy, only pharmacies and para-pharmacies can sell these products. This means that you can’t even buy a packet of aspirins in your local supermarket!
Supermarkets in Italy are not allowed to sell any type of medicinal products, even basic food supplements. You can, of course, buy health and beauty products in supermarkets, as well as items such as sunscreen, diapers and toiletries.
Even so, the quality of these types of items is usually higher in a pharmacy than in a supermarket where you are more likely to get the bottom-of-the-range, cheaper versions of the products.
Does Italy Have Big Pharmacy Chains Like In The US?
The pharmaceutical sector in Italy is very different from the United States. Italy doesn’t have huge chains like CVS or Walgreens and instead, most pharmacies are small and independently owned.
However, in recent years, the government has taken steps to deregulate the industry and has allowed larger chains to operate in Italy. Currently, the largest drugstore chain in Italy is called Tigota, Acqua & Sapone, and Prodet. As of 2018, this company had an annual turnover of 963 million Euros, which although considerable is not comparable to the American and Northern European giants in the industry.
Online Pharmacies In Italy.
Italy has recently allowed online pharmacies to sell non-prescriptions and other self-care treatments. This makes getting over-the-counter medicines much easier for people who work long hours or cannot, for health reasons, easily get to the nearest pharmacy.
There are very strict regulations that govern online pharmaceutical companies in the EU to ensure that no falsified or substandard medicines are sold to consumers.
If you are looking online for a pharmacy you must ensure that it has the official European Union logo on its website. You should be able to click on this logo to see the official listing of online pharmacies so you can check that it is authorized to sell non-prescription medicines.
It’s Essential To Understand How To Buy Medicines In Italy.
If you’re an Expat it’s vital to know how to buy prescription medicines in Italy. This is particularly true if you have a regular prescription or are faced with an unexpected medical situation. Fortunately, once you have consulted with a doctor, it’s easy to find a local pharmacy.