How to get medication in the U.S.


Americans take more pills than people in most other countries, and you can find a wide range of medicines at pharmacies, drugstores, hospitals and even at grocery stores. There are two types of medication: freely-available drugs and prescription only, which require a prescription from a doctor.

The prescription is taken to the pharmacy by the patient and the pharmacist issues the medicine.

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 or codeine, must be prescribed by a doctor in the USA.

However, some painkillers, such as headache tablets, are available at pharmacies without a prescription. To obtain your medicine you will have to go to a pharmacy inside stores like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Eckerd, Publix, Winn Dixie or CVS. You can also find pharmacies in many grocery stores.

Bear in mind that some medicines that you are used to in your home country, might have a different name in the USA. You can find the US equivalent of your medication for example on .

If you have health insurance, the majority of the cost of prescription medicines will be paid for directly by your insurance company. You do pay a small nominal fee for each drug, depending on if it is a brand name drug or not. With private insurance, you pay for the medication and then send the receipts to your insurer for reimbursement.

Note that prescription medicines can be very expensive in the U.S. and that insurance policies usually don’t cover medication for existing medical problems. Check if your health insurance company has its own pharmacy. They usually offer drugs at a better price.

Opening hours of pharmacies are similar to other shops: 9am to 9pm, seven days a week. For emergencies, there is always at least one pharmacy open in every area day and night. See our section on emergencies for further details.

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