How will a pharmacist in Spain react when the client gives him/her a prescription from a Polish doctor? Are any of the known and commonly used medicines in Poland available in pharmacies throughout the European Union? What about the refund of certain medication when the prescription is made up in a different country than it was issued?
Medication often becomes an important part of the ‘to pack’ list when going abroad. This is primarily because people fear that outside of Poland the same remedy may cost more.
Counting-out a line of doubts
For economic reasons, while travelling abroad, we should put some medicine in our luggage. Uncertainty as to whether another country would even be able to complete the prescription that your family physician wrote has significant importance. And if so, whether or not it will include the proportion of refunds in force in Poland. Further doubts about the same issue: Is the medication that can be bought without a prescription in Poland also available over the counter in other countries? Do the products and their dosage remain the same in different countries? You can also reverse the situation. What happens if you need to get medical help abroad - can you wait with picking up a prescription until you return to Poland, when it has been prescribed by a doctor from abroad e.g. Croatia?
Sometimes pure forgetfulness may force us to face a problem that we would usually try to avoid. Imagine, instead of taking pills abroad you have to take the prescription. How will the pharmacist react in another country?
Start with the card, consider additional insurance
One thing that is more important than the prescription itself and stockpiles of medicine can be the European Health Insurance Card. If you travel or plan to move around Europe, it is worth taking it with you.
With the request for issuing the EHIC card, it is enough just to approach - directly, by mail or by email - the local NHF department. This card is available to anyone who is covered by the primary care system in Poland and is free to issue. But later - in the case of health problems - the EHIC can release you from many expenses. The card is honoured by all European Union countries and the European Free Trade Association, namely Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and health care services in these countries will treat you like a citizen.
An individual insurance policy can complement the privileges provided by the EHIC. Ensure that you pay attention to the costs' refunds of all services and medical treatment and the purchase of medicine, hospital stays and so on.
Prescription is not necessarily transboundary
Every prescription from a Polish doctor is valid in all EU countries - the official EU portal ensures this. However, the EU rules do not guarantee or require that different pharmacies in different countries stock the same medications under identical names and in the same form.
While thinking about purchasing pills, ointment, etc. in certain parts of the EU a "transboundary prescription" concept has been created, however, its form has not been specified. It is enough if a blank form includes the basic data: the patient's name, surname, date of birth, the date of the prescription, the signature of the doctor, and the name and dosage of the medication. Then we are certain, that the pharmacy abroad will fulfil the prescription - so it sells a recommended remedy or one with the different name, but not disparate in composition and action. Very important warning: "Prescriptions are subject to the rules of the country in which they are implemented. Family means, that when giving medicines, the pharmacist will apply national rules - for example, the regulations may not allow the same number of dosage days," europa.eu informs.
Various rules across different members of the EU have an influence on the possible amount of refund for a medication. At this stage, having an EHIC card may be crucial. When a prescription has been issued to you by a doctor, for example in Portugal, the Portuguese pharmacist will sell you the prescribed amount using the applicable refund rules in Portugal, provided that we present the European Health Insurance Card.
With a prescription, but without EKUZ, we will cover the full cost of implementation. However, if an individual insurance policy provides us with the refund for medical expenses and medicaments abroad, you will need to ask for a bill during the transaction.
Poles spend more, however, they are far behind the EU leaders
“Last year in Polish households, according to GUS data, the average monthly expenses on health care, including medicine, has amounted to 5.3 percent per person. Although it is still nearly five times less than the money spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages, the share of a household with children spending on health care (including medicine) has risen by approx. 7 percent compared to 2015,” explains Bartosz Grejner, an analyst at Cinkciarz.pl.
“The comparison between households receiving the Family 500 child benefit program with those who do not benefit from it is also very interesting. Expenses including food, recreation and culture, as well as restaurants and hotels have been higher in the case of households receiving the Family 500 child benefit program than the ones without this benefit. Their share of health spending has been lower and has amounted to only 4.1%, which is less than the amount spent on hotels and restaurants (4.7%),” adds the analyst at Cinkciarz.pl.
How much do Poles spend on medicine compared to other EU citizens? According to the OECD Health at a Glance report, in 2015 the cost of medicine amounted to 21% of healthcare spendings. Poland is in the lead of the European Union countries - more is spent on medication in only 5 countries: Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary. Citizens of the latter spend an average of 29% out of their total health expenses. In turn, Danish citizens spend 6.8% of their total amount of health expenditures, which is the least among the rest of EU countries.