If you are visiting Italy or recently moved here from another country, you may be wondering where to go to get the necessary medications. Here is all you need to know.


For expats residing and working in Italy, you should experience little difficulty trying to obtain prescriptions whether you are covered by private health insurance or are registered with the Italian health authority and therefore have coverage through the Sistema Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). Your National Healthcare Service Primary Care Physician can give you a free prescription refill if you need it. The cost of prescriptions in Italy are rarely expensive and only requires a small fee. The SSN will cover medications that are considered “life saving”. The prices of medicines aren’t controlled by the government and vary considerably according to the brand.


If you are visiting Italy and take medicine regularly, you should ask your doctor for the generic name, as the brand names of medicines vary from country to country. Italian doctors also commonly prescribe homeopathic medicines, which are popular in Italy and stocked by all pharmacists. Pharmacies sell products like aspirin and decongestants so you cannot buy medications at supermarkets.


Most of the over-the-counter prescriptions that are readily available in the European market can be found in Italy. Prescription drugs can only be prescribed by doctors but not all doctors can prescribe them. Non- prescription drugs can be distributed by para-pharmacies that are not authorized as pharmacies but are still subject to the requirements set out by the Ministry of Health. You cannot buy a prescription in Italy. Instead, you can have a consultation with a doctor who can issue a prescription for a medication you need.


If you are covered by the national healthcare system you have to pay a small co-pay on your prescription that varies by product.


Pharmacists in Italy cannot prescribe medication and only medical doctors licensed and authorized to practice in Italy can prescribe medication. Pharmacists dispense medicinal products by prescription from a licensed medical doctor but they can recommend over-the-counter medication. To get antibiotics, you also need a medical prescription issued by a doctor because pharmacists cannot dispense antibiotics without a valid medical prescription. If you need to fill a prescription you can fill it at a pharmacy in Italy if it is a valid medical prescription licensed in Italy.

About the Author: Colleen Kennedy

Colleen Kennedy was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut. She is studying health policy management and political science at Providence College. She is in Rome to intern for MedInAction this summer and is passionate about healthcare.