There are two types of medication: freely-available drugs and prescription only medicines, which require a Rezept (prescription) from a doctor. The prescription is taken to the pharmacy by the patient and the pharmacist issues the medicines.
The law on prescriptions is very strict. Many medicines that you may be able to buy over the counter in your own country, such as antibiotics, must be prescribed by a doctor in Germany. However, some painkillers, such as headache tablets, are available at pharmacies without a prescription.
With state health insurance, the majority of the costs of prescription medicines are paid for directly by your insurance company. You do pay a small nominal fee for each drug, depending on its cost (Zuzahlungspflicht). If your gross monthly income is below a certain level you can exempted from paying additional charges for prescriptions. See our section on health insurance for further details. With private insurance, you pay for medication and then send receipts to your insurer for reimbursement.
Irrespective of your insurance scheme, you will always need to pay the whole cost for non-prescription drugs. Medicines in Germany are among the most expensive in Europe, so bring a supply of non-prescription painkillers, cold remedies and other items with you.
Opening hours of pharmacies are similar to other shops: Weekdays 09:00-18:30, Saturdays 09:00-13:00 (sometimes -16.00). For emergencies, there is always at least one pharmacy open in every area day and night. See our section on emergencies for further details. And, for up-to-date news related to pharmacies and medicine in Germany, check out our website on expatriate health: http://www.expathealth.org