Tips on buying drugs and medicines


Drugs and medicines can be obtained by your local pharmacy – which can be easily recognized by the sign of a green cross on a white background.

Pharmacies should not be confused with drugstores ( Drogerie) where, at most, you can get some cough syrup or other non-prescription drugs.

In case of emergencies, there is always at least one pharmacy open in every area day and night. See our section on emergencies for further details.

There are two types of medication: freely-available and prescription only medicines. You can only get prescription drugs if a doctor has prescribed them on a Rezept ( prescription). You then take the prescription to the pharmacy and the pharmacist issues the medicines.

Payment and reimbursement

Almost one third of medicines approved for sale are only available on prescription. The cost of these is reimbursed by the compulsory basic insurance subject to an excess of 10% (meaning you only get 90% of the cost back). Medicines not on the official prescription list are paid for by the patient or by additional insurance cover (if and where applicable).

How you pay for medicines depends on your insurance company. Most companies will provide you with an insurance card which you present at the pharmacy. The pharmacy then bills the insurance company, who will invoice you the 10% of the cost that you have to pay yourself. Some insurers (usually the cheaper ones) require you to pay for your medication and they then reimburse you when they receive the receipt from you.

Non-prescription medicines are not covered by health insurance. Since medicines in Switzerland are among the most expensive in Europe, it is wise to bring a supply of painkillers, cold remedies and other items with you. If you suffer from a recurring condition such as hayfever, asthma or migraines, also make sure you stock up on treatments to bring them with you.

Further reading

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