How are prescription drugs monitored

Online guide to medicines, remedies and aids

Which drugs do patients receive in pharmacies only on prescription?

Due to the Medicines Act, medicinal products for use on humans are only subject to prescription if their use requires medical (or dental) supervision. This includes first of all drugs that can endanger health even when used as intended, if they are used without a doctor's prescription. This also includes drugs that are often misused to a considerable extent (if this could directly or indirectly endanger health), and drugs that contain substances or preparations of substances with effects that are not generally known in medical science. The Ordinance on the Prescription of Medicinal Products regulates further details. Prescription drugs are basically also pharmacy-only. They include such important drugs as antibiotics, antidiabetics and cancer therapeutics. In addition, narcotics such as strong painkillers or cannabis-based drugs must be prescribed on a special narcotic prescription.

No prescription is required for medicinal products which, due to an acceptable or known extent of possible side effects, may be used without medical or dental supervision, but with advice from a pharmacist. These are only available from a pharmacy. They include the majority of cold and headache remedies.

Which drugs do not require pharmacy obligations?

According to the Medicines Act, medicinal products that are intended exclusively for purposes other than the elimination or alleviation of illnesses, ailments, physical injuries or pathological complaints are not subject to pharmacy-only pharmacy. In addition, certain medicinal products are freely available that are explicitly mentioned in the Medicines Act or in the ordinance on pharmacy-only and over-the-counter medicinal products (e.g. healing earth, bath bogs, certain pressed plant juices or disinfectants). They can be bought in pharmacies, but also in drugstores or supermarkets. Over-the-counter medicines also include certain teas and vitamin supplements.

Price comparison for pharmaceuticals

Non-prescription drugs

Since even non-prescription drugs such as headache pills are often offered by several companies, a price comparison can be worthwhile. In addition, each pharmacy can set its own selling price for these drugs.

Prescription Drugs

If the doctor does not prescribe a specific drug, the insured person can ask the pharmacy for a cheap drug with the same active ingredients. Pharmacists are obliged to hand over cheaper drugs with the same effect - so-called generics - if the doctor has only prescribed one active ingredient instead of a special drug (aut-idem rule). The same applies if the doctor does not expressly rule out the possibility of replacing the prescribed drug with another.

What does the aut-idem rule mean?

On a prescription for medicinal products, there are small boxes with the words "aut idem" in the field in which the doctor enters the prescribed medicinal product (s). The doctor allows the pharmacist to use the words "aut idem", which means "or the same" in Latin, to replace the medicinal product prescribed by name with another. This must have the same active ingredient, active ingredient content and the same pack size as well as the same or an interchangeable dosage form and be approved for the same area of ‚Äč‚Äčapplication. By issuing cheaper preparations, costs can be saved. If the doctor prescribes a certain preparation and therefore wants to exclude the exchange, he or she has to tick the box. This can be the case, for example, in the case of severe allergies or intolerance to additives.

What are generics?

A generic (plural: generic) is a drug that is a copy with the same active ingredients - also with regard to the dosage form - of an already approved reference drug. However, the generic drug may contain other excipients than the reference drug. Like all drugs, generics require official approval before they can enter the market. For a generic, this basically works according to the same principles as for all drugs. Under certain (temporal) conditions, the applicant can state an already approved medicinal product (originator) as a reference medicinal product and refer to the documentation for this medicinal product. This means that the applicant refers to the documents of the reference drug already available to an authority on the results of preclinical and clinical trials and does not have to collect these data himself. A generic that has been approved in accordance with this provision may not be placed on the market until ten years after the approval for the reference medicinal product has been granted. Generics are usually cheaper than the original preparations because the manufacturer does not have to conduct their own research, but benefits from the expired patent and document protection for a proven drug. Pharmaceutical companies have newly developed active pharmaceutical ingredients patented. Patent protection gives them the sole right to market the active ingredient. If the patent and document protection expire, other companies can also use the originator's documents for an authorization procedure and sell the drug under a different name.


March 26, 2021