Pharmacies in Russia: How They Work
Pharmacies in Russia are everywhere and they have just about everything you can find in any pharmacy in the West. If you live in Russia, sooner or later, you are going to need to get medicine whether it be for a cold, back pain, or even serious medication. We get many questions about whether a certain medication is available in Russia. Chances are, it is, and even better, it is over the counter and much cheaper than at home.
The easiest way to find a Russian pharmacy is just to look for the Russian word аптека (apteka), which is on every pharmacy sign. A simple search on Google maps will also show you where they are. Another plus about pharmacies in Russia is that many are open 24 hours a day.
Fortunately, pharmacies in Russia are very affordable and in many cases have medication available over the counter that is highly regulated in the West. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this. Overall, if you know what you are looking for, your experience at a Russian pharmacy will be better than in your home country, especially if you are coming from the US.
The first major difference that Americans notice when they enter a pharmacy in Russia is that they are really just a pharmacy. For those of you who have never been to the US, pharmacies there are more of a convenience store with a pharmacy attached. Many guests and immigrants to the US find this strange. If you are from most other countries, a Russian pharmacy will look just as you expect.
Generic Versus Brand Name Medication in Russia
In Russia, the first thing you will notice when you enter a Russian pharmacy is that almost all of the packaging for medication looks different than you are accustomed to. Especially if you are from the US. There are a few medications in Russia that simply have Russian language packaging. Claratin is a great example.
Otherwise, most generic and brand name medications have very similar packaging. The only difference is the price at pharmacies in Russia can vary wildly.
Imported and Domestic Medication in Russia
If you can speak Russian and you ask for help in a Russian pharmacy, you will usually be asked whether you want imported medication or medicine produced in Russia. This is an odd question for an American because, in the US, most medicine is imported from all over the world.
In Russia, almost every medication available has a domestically produced version as well as an imported version. The prices between them vary widely.
For almost every type of medication, it is perfectly fine to take the Russian version. All of the medication produced in Russia is using the exact same formula as its imported cousin. In many cases, it is even produced by the same companies. Many international pharmaceutical companies have set up domestic production in Russia.
Fortunately, regulatory oversight over medicine in Russia is very strict. If something is sold at a pharmacy in a large Russian city, you can be sure that it is legitimate.
Consultations with a Pharmacist in Russia
One area where you should be careful at a pharmacy in Russia is when talking to a pharmacist. In the US, Canada, and Western Europe, pharmacists are highly educated and able to advise on medications.
In most instances, in Russia, pharmacists are not nearly as competent. In fact, you might be surprised to enter a pharmacy late a night and there is just a young girl working there who will give you advice on which medication to take. If you do not know what you need and your doctor did not give you a specific list of medications, you should not take medical advice from the pharmacists in Russia. Of course, if you are in a Russian hospital pharmacy, you must use your judgment, but it may be better than a retail pharmacy.
Overall, you should be careful with any advice you get from a Russian pharmacist. It is much better to see a doctor who will tell you exactly what you need. If you have a list of medications, the pharmacists will help you pick the cheapest versions of the medications.
Best Pharmacies Chains in Moscow
There are so many different Russian pharmacy chains in Moscow and it can be overwhelming to choose. Russians simply go to the lowest priced chain near their home.
As with just about everything in Russia, price is never an indication of the quality of service. It is not uncommon for the exact same brand of medication to vary significantly in price from one pharmacy to another. Therefore, we will highlight the most common pharmacy chains in Moscow, and tell you which are usually the cheapest.
36,6 – This is one of the more expensive pharmacy chains in Moscow, but it is also regularly voted one of the best overall.
Rigla – This chain of pharmacies in Russia is very popular and has good prices.
Asna – For cheaper prices, check out Asna pharmacies.
Planeta Zdorov,ya – One of the cheaper pharmacy chains in Russia with many locations.
Gorzdrav – You can find these pharmacies all over Russia, and they are one of the best.
Stolichnyye Apteki – No online ordering is available here, but they have many stores.
Solnyshko – One of the highest-rated pharmacies in Russia, but it only has a few locations.
NeoFarm – Another lower-cost pharmacy in Russia with many locations.
Most internet savvy Russians actually order most medicine from internet pharmacies in Russia. The prices are usually significantly lower and they have convenient delivery options and multiple pick up locations around Moscow. Most of the pharmacies above have an online order option. You can order from home and simply go pick up your medications at the nearest location.
Don’t be surprised if the prices for online order and pick up are lower than the prices in the pharmacies in Russia. This is normal and the major reason why many Russians order medicine online.
How to Find Any Medicine in Russia
So you are at the pharmacy in Russia and can’t really read Russian or speak to the pharmacist to ask for what you need. Google Translate and Wikipedia are your friends. The easiest way to figure out the Russian version of your medication is to first figure out what the active ingredient is.
Once you know what the active ingredient is, you can translate it or alternatively, open Wikipedia and search for the active ingredient and then open the Russian version of the page. With this information, you can ask the pharmacist for help by showing them the name of the active ingredient for the medication you need.
To help you further, we put together a list of the most common over the counter medications that people look for and their Russian versions. Simply ask for the active ingredient name and you will get the generic versions, which are almost always many times cheaper than the brand names.
Common Medication Names in Russian and English
|Active Ingredient||Russian Active|
|This is not|
|Tylenol||acetaminophen||парацетамол||No brand name|
How to Get Prescription Medicine at Pharmacies in Russia
If you have a chronic condition and are planning to move to Russia, it is important to find a doctor that you trust. While more medicine in Russia is sold over the counter than in the United States, there are still many medicines that require a prescription or рецепт (retsept) in Russian.
Getting a prescription in Russia with no medical history can be a pain. Many people try to bring relevant medical documents to Russia hoping to find a doctor who will prescribe medicine based on their diagnosis abroad. There are usually problems with this and most Russian doctors are reluctant to prescribe anything based on foreign medical records.
Some doctors at international medical centers may be willing to prescribe based on your foreign documents, but it isn’t a guarantee. The price for an appointment at one of these medical centers will be many times more than a private Russian clinic too.
For the most part, you should have no problems at all finding common medicine at pharmacies in Russia. If you need prescription medicine in Russia, be sure to bring as much as possible with you when you arrive in Russia to be safe. Once you arrive, you can find a doctor who can prescribe the medication you need after doing blood work.
If you are looking for a specific medicine in Russia and can’t seem to find it, let us know in the comments and we will help find it for you and add it to the table above. You can also find some information about healthcare in our moving to Russia as an expat guide.