Looking for medicines in Hong Kong? Here is a practical guide about where to find drugs (over-the-counter and prescription), as well as Chinese medicines.
Where to buy medicines in Hong Kong?
There are three main places where you can purchase drugs in Hong Kong: listed sellers such as convenience stores, authorised sellers such as pharmacies, and clinics/hospitals.
Since different places sell different types of drugs, you may refer to Hong Kong’s Drug Office for the exact classification of the particular drug you want.
In general, drugs available in Hong Kong are divided into three classes:
Class 1 – Sold as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in any retail premises without the need for a pharmacist. Common OTC drugs include panadol (paracetamol) for instance.
Class 2 – Sold in authorised sellers / clinics / hospitals by a registered pharmacist, like advil (ibuprofen).
Class 3 – Sold only with a prescription. Common prescription drugs include, for instance, antibiotics like amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (augmentin) or antianxiety / antidepressants (i.e. prozac, valium, xanax).
Listed Sellers – Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs only
In Hong Kong, convenience stores are great places to find over-the-counter drugs for mild sickness. Common OTC drugs are paracetamol (panadol), famotidine, laxatives or common supplements like vitamin D or magnesium.
These drugs have a history of being safe and effective and that is why they are sold at convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Circle-K, supermarkets like PARKnSHOP or Wellcome, and local pharmacies. Note: they must be sold in a closed container or original container and no broken-bulk is allowed.
Authorised Sellers – Any drugs
Authorised sellers include Hong Kong’s two main chain pharmacies i.e. Mannings and Watsons, or any local pharmacy with an Rx logo. The Rx logo ensure that they have their certification of registration, and they will have a pharmacist on duty to whom you can ask for free drug advice. Here you can get any over-the-counter drugs, or your prescription filled if your required drugs are available. Don’t have a prescription? Ask the registered pharmacist what drugs may help your symptoms so they can dispense the drug that is most suitable for your needs.
Clinics / Hospitals – Any drugs
A unique characteristic of Hong Kong’s healthcare system is that you can buy drugs from your doctor’s clinic and at a hospital. You just need to see a doctor in a clinic or at any hospital (public or private) and he/she will issue a prescription for you, which will be filled right away on the premises. In Hong Kong, clinics and hospitals basically sell any type of drug according to the prescription issued.
How are pharmacies regulated in Hong Kong?
There are over 650 registered pharmacies in Hong Kong, meaning there are pharmacies all over the city. You can find here an updated list of all registered pharmacies in Hong Kong.
Pharmacists are trained drug experts who have 4 years of rigorous pharmacy studies, passed competitive exams and received one year of specialised training. They can give you professional advice on the safe use of drugs. They must be registered under the Pharmacy and Poisons Board. The criteria for registration as a pharmacist in Hong Kong are different for overseas graduates and local graduates (these come from one of Hong Kong’s only two pharmacy schools: HKU and Chinese University.
Where to buy Chinese medicines in Hong Kong?
Interested in Chinese Medicines? Hong Kong has thousands of licensed Chinese medicine retail shops – and you can find a full list here. They may sell solely Chinese medicines, or may be part of a pharmacy that sells regular medicines too.
You can also find Chinese medicines in Hong Kong’s two main pharmacy chains (Mannings, Watsons) or supermarkets (PARKnSHOP, Wellcome). For some medicines you will need a prescription. In order to get a prescription you can visit a Chinese medicine practitioner. TCM practitioners usually fill the prescription for you right away at their clinic.
Is it safe to buy Chinese medicines in Hong Kong?
There is a licensing and regulation system for Chinese medicines to ensure the quality and safety of Chinese medicines. Chinese medicines can be divided into two categories, namely Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 under the Chinese Medicine Ordinance. Visit Hong Kong’s Chinese Medicine Council’s website for the full list.
For Schedule 1 medicines, they must be sold according to a prescription issued by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner. Extreme caution should be exercised for these medicines as they contain toxic ingredients. For Schedule 2 medicines, no prescription is required as they are relatively safe.