Pharmacies in Saudi Arabia

Amoxicillin (Generic Term) Antibiotics Perscription

To begin with most residents in Saudi Arabia will refer to a pharmacy as a chemist.  For example, if someone needs to pick up some medications they will go to their local chemist.  Each chemist will also have a pharmacist or chemist who may or may not speak English.  Overall I have found the individual to be very knowledgeable and helpful.

saudi pharmacy

There will be distinctions between the pharmacies in Saudi Arabia as compared to the typical ones like CVS or Wallgreens in the States.  In the United States one can pretty much do “one-stop-shopping” at either a CVS or a cvsWallgreens pharmacy.  In addition to all the pharmaceutical materials, medical supplies and drugs, these large pharmacies will have books, magazines, clothes, cosmetics, gifts, household items, outdoor items, sporting goods, toys, groceries and even beer and wine.  Whereas the pharmacies in Saudi Arabia will be more focused predominantly selling medical supplies and drugs.  Some of the large pharmacies such as Al Nahdi will also have some beauty products and baby products too.  But overall the pharmacies in Saudi Arabia will not have the same versatile selections as those in the States.

The pharmacies in Saudi Arabia will not have any medical products such as  Nyquil available due its (minimal) alcohol content. Thera Flu is another excellent over the counter flu/cold medication that is not available in Saudi Arabia either.  Rather than selling Tylenol, Excedrin, Aleeve or Advil, Panadol is the preferred over the counter pain relieving medication in Saudi Arabia.

Unlike other countries in the GCC region, prescription medications are controlled and do require a prescription from a doctor in order to acquire.

31 Responses

  1. One of the BIG differences between USA and Middle East is that you can pretty much go into any pharmacy and ask for something that you generally should have a doctors prescription for…and its yours. (not all pharmacies do this but alot do…helps if you establish a relationship with pharmacist)

    btw did you take that photo of that pharmicist carol…seriously want to know

  2. I’ve also noticed that the pharmacists are very knowledgeable and helpful. You can just go and tell them what the problem is, and they recommend something. (And it helps that here we have women pharmacists, so they’re easy to talk to about “women’s” things.) They all seem to speak English well, too.

    I thought it used to be easy to get things like antibiotics in Saudi without a prescription – is that not the case?

  3. @coolred – no; I did not take the photo but thankfully google images have so many to choose from!

    @munaqabah – as I understand it -used- to be easier to get medications without a prescription but now the regulations pertaining to controlled meds are very similar to that of the US.

  4. Carol…the reason I asked is cause there was a guy working near my house in a computer shop…brought over here to be a pharmacist but his “owner” had tricked him and made him work in a computer shop instead (he was trained to be a pharmacist not a computer tech). needless to say he messed up quite a few computers along the way…which my (ex)husband would sort out…since he worked there too at the time.

    Anyhow the guy said soon as he finished his contract he would get a new job in a pharmacy…so I was asking cause the guy in your pic looks exactly like him. Thought you took the pic and he was working somewhere in Saudi now…lol.

    btw I recently bought anti biotics for a tooth infection without a prescription…and some very strong pain killers. No problems….but thats bahrain

  5. It’s nice to be able to self medicate here in Saudi. Most of the time, you pretty much know what you need and the pharmacists are very good at introducing new meds for a cough or cold. I recently went to a doctor in the states for an anual check up and told his nurse that I needed two Z-packs. She was shocked. But, sure enough, that’s exactly what they decided that we needed.

  6. Mentioning the women pharmacists got me thinking about all the other professions where they also usually have a woman on duty – like opticians, photo studios, etc. Do they not have them in Saudi? If not, do women have to have a man fit their eyeglasses or take a photo for an ID? How does that work?

  7. i think controlling medications are a good practice. in lebanon some people use the pharmacy as a one stop for diagnosis, and my husband was given antibiotics for lymphona for like a year till he was finally diagnosed.
    …and durring the 2006 war…i went to a pharmacist, and told them i wanted something to put me to sleep…i didnt wake up for like 4 days.

    here in the states , if you go to a major pharmacy like walgreens or cvs. the computers they have will alert if any of the meds your taking interact. i think thats really cool!

  8. @munaqabah – I know of multiple places in Riyadh where there are photo studios for women only with female photographs who will do all from passport pictures to whatever…

    And at National Guard Health Affairs, there is a pharmacy for the women and another for the men, staffed accordingly.

  9. The computers in the States will also automatically send a warning if someone is trying to get a prescription refilled too soon too!

  10. Thanks, Carol. We always get the impression that there aren’t any women working in Saudi, which I know isn’t true, but I don’t know exactly where they can and can’t work.

  11. One way of looking at it is due to the segregation it helps create more jobs!

  12. Self medicating is not such a good idea. Even where antibiotics are available over the counter, Let’s say if 9 out of 10 times you are right, there’s that 1 time where something could go wrong. I’ve been asked by friends so many times for prescriptions to Z-pac. or what antibiotics can they stock up from india trip!! well
    my suggestion to all would be to visit a health care professional if sick. .. After all medicines are DRUGS , even over the counter . I have seen otherwise caring parents going cold/cough medicine happy? Would you give your children really tiny doses of marijuana ?

    Sorry , one of my pet peeves:-)

  13. I agree with Radha 100%. Angie’s experience is a very good example.

  14. Yes, I agree with you. ..I wouldn’t self-medicate a child either. I used to call the states years ago to ask the doctor what to give my children when they were ill. They always got sick during the weekends here when their doctor was off. Nowadays, that might be difficult as the doctors seem to see twice as many patients in a day than they did years ago.

  15. @Carol,

    Creating more jobs for whom? If it is for non Saudi workers it means it is a net drain on Saudi resources.

  16. @Radha – I agree with you but must mention that when I lived in India, I am glad that Cipro was readily available over the counter for those random times when “delhi-belly” struck!

    @Abu Sinan – What I meant by creating jobs is that if there were not segregation then half of the employees in the pharmacy would be eliminated. But due to having (at least in the bigger hospitals) a male and female pharmacy it meant double the staff. And in these pharmacies I have seen a mix of Saudi and expat employees.

  17. I’ve often thought that about the segregation. We have to have women in many professions – doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, opticians, etc. Each school needs not only teachers, but administrative staff from the headmistress down, banks need women in all positions, etc. Then there are professors, engineers, lawyers, photographers, etc.

  18. I forgot to mention that we also have more men in positions that are considered “female” – like secretaries and nurses. And many men teachers for the boys’s schools.

  19. I think that one needs to use common sense about going to the doctor. For example, many children’s medical problems are routine and don’t require dragging the child to the clinic. I always have a couple of books (and the Internet now) and check them first to see what it is and how it should be treated – and if it’s something that does need a trip to the doctor, then of course we go.

  20. @munaqabah – I agree…in the Middle East one does tend to see more male secretaries and personal assistants than elsewhere.

    I think many of us do the same these days in going to the internet for medical information and research. But at the same time, it is so important to be able to distinguish when the symptoms are such that a dr’s visit is in order.

  21. I am an American working in Riyadh. I have a prescription from my American doctor for Lexapro that I need filled, but no pharmacy that I have been to knows anything about it.

    Is there somewhere in Riyadh I can get a prescription from the US filled?

  22. JSC – is it not being filled because it is a US prescription or because the pharmacy has not recognized the name “Lexapro?” You may want to find out if the medication has a different name.

  23. I have never heard of a Saudi referring to a Pharmacist as a Chemist.

    the word most used is “Saydaliyah” for Pharmacy and “Saydali” for Pharmacist.

  24. @Mohamed – thanks for providing the arabic. Chemist is what I’ve heard most often and I have worked in the Saudi health care industry.

  25. please be advised that I am looking for a medicin called Soma ( carisopodol ) would you please kidly advise me if you have it,
    best wishes and regards.
    Mohammad Alansary
    Mobile: 0096597657774

  26. i need a supplement PROMAX EXTREME m living in Dammam can anybody tell me from where i can get this supplement. I try to purchase online from UK but they said you cannot bring to Saudi Arabia coz KSA did not allow any king of medicine shopping from abroad.

  27. hi,im javaria,now in australia,i want to work as a pharmacist in saudi pharmacises,what i should do???i am a pharmasict by profession,please guide me

  28. I was looking for a birth control from Saudi…wondering if I can have it shipped to the states…

  29. I like soudhi pharmacies

  30. I’m frantically looking for a medicine DE-NOL 120mg tablet.
    Can anyone advice me where I can find this medicine and in which medical shop in Riyadh?

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