Many medicines are available from pharmacies without prescription, including some that require a prescription in most western countries (although antibiotics can no longer be bought over the counter). On the other hand, some medicines that can be bought without prescription in other countries require one in Qatar and you should check with a doctor. Most pharmacies also carry non-medical items, such as cosmetics and perfumes, but costs are likely to be higher than at other shops. General medicines, such as painkillers, cough medicine and eye drops, are widely available in supermarkets and larger stores.
While some anti-depressants are banned in Qatar, those of the SSRI class (such as Paxil and Prozac) are available over the counter without prescriptions. Sleeping tablets are also available, though they require prescriptions. If you are taking a medication that will be unavailable in Qatar, consult with your doctor to find an appropriate substitute. Make sure you do this well in advance of your trip - changing medications can be a lengthy process and depending on what you are taking you may experience side-effects.
If you take a medicine on a regular basis, make sure that you know the content name and formula, not just the brand name, as many brand names vary from country to country and between manufacturers. You might have to renew your prescription from a local doctor, as many pharmacists aren’t authorised to accept foreign prescriptions.
Most pharmacies are open from 9.30am to 1pm and from 4.30 to 8.30pm or later, Saturdays to Thursdays. A notice in the local press indicates the duty pharmacy open outside these times. Many hospitals have a 24-hour pharmacy, where you can obtain prescription and non-prescription medicines.
It’s important to obtain a receipt if you want to claim from your insurance. Medicines are quite expensive and there have been cases of over-prescribing in the private health sector, perhaps because of a link between the prescriber and the pharmacy.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Gulf States & Saudi Arabia. Click here to get a copy now.