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How to buy prescription medicines

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Pharmacies used to be state owned but on July 1st 2009 a re-regulation of the Swedish pharmacy market took place, allowing private pharmacies. Since then the total number of pharmacies in Sweden has increased from approximately 950 to over 1400.

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Pharmacies sell both non-prescription and prescription medicines. In order for you to pick up prescription drugs at a pharmacy or order them online a doctor or other prescriber must write a prescription for you.

Prescriptions are usually sent to the pharmacy electronically, but sometimes they are printed out on paper for you to take to the pharmacy. When you receive a paper prescription, you must bring it to the pharmacy in order to pick up the medicine. No matter what kind of prescription you have, you must show identification to pick up your medicine.

If you have a bank ID, you can log in to most pharmacies and pay for your prescription online and have it sent home to you. You can also buy non prescription items, handle prescription medicin for your child and set up powers of attorney so that you can pick up medicine for someone else. Pretty handy if you are sick (or lazy like me) and don’t want to go to a physical pharmacy when you are down with the flu.

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

You pay a maximum of SEK 2,300 a year for medicines covered by the ‘pharmaceutical benefit scheme’. This is called the high-cost threshold (Högkostnadsskydd). The county council pays for costs exceeding that amount.

Medicines covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

  • Most prescription medicines
  • Stoma care products
  • Disposable items needed to administer medicines
  • Disposable items needed to check your medication

Are you entitled to pharmaceutical benefits?

Yes you are, if you:

  • are a resident in Sweden.
  • Work here or have a European Health Insurance Card.
  • Have prescriptions that were written in Sweden.

Once you have purchased medicines for a total of SEK 2,300 during a twelve-month period, you are entitled to a free pass within the high-cost threshold system for the remainder of this twelve-month period.

Although the free pass only applies after you spend SEK 2,300, you receive incremental benefits when you spend a certain amount according to the discount system shown below. 

The incremental discount system below shows the co-pay corresponding to certain medicine prices. The discount for each new purchase is based on the previous purchase.

You do not pay anything for disposable items needed to check your medication and disposable items needed to administer medicines.

Total costYour shareYour maximum payment
– SEK 1,150100 %-SEK 1,150
SEK 1,150-2,19550 %SEK 1,150-1,673
SEK 2,195-4,07825 %SEK 1,673-2,143
SEK 4,078-5,64510 %SEK 2,143-2,300
SEK 5,6450 %SEK 2,300

It is important to note that the high-cost threshold database does not keep a record of what medicines you received or which doctors prescribed them. The database keeps a record of your personal identity number, co-payment paid, date of purchase, the amount you have reached in the high-cost threshold system, and the starting date of the high-cost threshold period.

Common Swedish pharmacies

Apoteket* has 394 pharmacies all over Sweden and 618 representatives for those of you who lives a bit more off the grid. The also have an online shop with a number of different delivery options.

Apohem* is a fairly new started online pharmacy. They only exist online and claim to have an unusual amount of items to unusually good prices. I don’t have enough information about them to know if this is true, so I say put them to the test.

Kronans apotek* is the third largest pharmacy in Sweden and has about 325 physical stores around the country plus their online shop.

MEDS* is a mobile pharmacy with fast delivery. They claim to be able to deliver to up to within an hour depending on where you live. Their pharmacist can assist you via email, phone and chat.

These are just some of the pharmacy chains you find in Sweden and they all provide online solutions so work for all newbies regardless of where in Sweden you live. But you can also just do a search on Google for “apotek + the name of your town” and you will find the nearest physical pharmacies.

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