How to fill medicine prescriptions in Croatia

Croatia Pharmacy - Ljekarna
Ljekarna in Croatia

UPDATED: 23.8.2023.

Once you’ve visited the doctor and have a prescription, where do you go to get it filled?

The answer is the ljekarna, the Croatian equivalent of the pharmacy. Croatians may also call it apoteka. Ljekarna is a healthcare institution where medicines and other medical supplies are procured, manufactured, tested, stored, and dispensed.

In larger Croatian cities, you can find a ljekarna in every neighborhood, sometimes on every street corner. They are easy to identify by their lit green “+” sign and large “LJEKARNA” sign.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Types of ljekarna in Croatia

Within primary health care, there are 2 types of ljekarna you can use:

  • Državna ljekarna (state pharmacy) – operates as an independent public pharmacy, within other healthcare institutions, and health and medical centers
  • Privatna ljekarna (private pharmacy) – owned by masters or doctors of pharmacy with a passed state exam and permission of the state

[Read: Croatia’s state health care obvezno insurance, what it costs and what is included]

View our guide on how EU/EEA citizens (and Croats) can sign up for Croatian state health insurance here and third-country citizens here.

There are also bolnička ljekarna (hospital pharmacies) that are located within a hospital.  They have the largest selection of medicines since they are intended for hospital patients.

Veterinarska ljekarna (veterinary pharmacies) sell only medicines that are intended for animals.

[Read: Local pharmacists – Croatia’s most accessible healthcare professionals]

How to fill the prescription in Croatia

There are several ways to get a prescription filled in Croatia. First a little nomenclature. In Croatian, a prescription is called recept, which literally translates to recipe. So, you will commonly hear it referred to as a recipe when a Croatian is speaking in English.

1. If your doctor is in the HZZO network

If you are a legal resident in Croatia, you most likely have state health insurance through HZZO. With this health insurance, you can visit doctors partnered with HZZO at little to no additional cost.

[Read: Why you must have health insurance]

If you are visiting a public doctor that is part of the HZZO network, then your doctor will create your prescription called e-recept electronically. This will allow you to fill your prescription at any ljekarna using your HZZO card called zdravstvena iskaznica. You will not be given a paper prescription. Instead, the prescription is logged electronically against your HZZO health insurance.

When you go to the pharmacy, give them your HZZO card. Using this, the pharmacist will look up which prescriptions you have available to be filled.

If you have supplemental insurance called dopunsko, then this card should be shown as well to reduce or eliminate your copay cost for the medicine. If your dopunsko is through HZZO, it should already show automatically when they look up your HZZO insurance. If your dopunsko is with a private insurer, you’ll definitely need to show your card.

[Read: What is “dopunsko” and why you should have this health insurance]

2. If your doctor is private and not in HZZO

If you are visiting a doctor or poliklinika that is not partnered with HZZO, then it is considered to be private. Private doctors will give you a physical paper prescription that you can take to the pharmacy.

Please note that prescriptions from private doctors are not covered by HZZO. In some cases, you can send your prescription from a private doctor to your public general family doctor who can then recreate the prescription electronically so you can use HZZO health insurance.

As an HZZO-insured person, you are required to have a general family doctor called doktor obiteljske medicine.

[Read: Healthcare and health insurance in Croatia]

Here is a real-world example. A person is prescribed anxiety medication by a private psychiatrist. This person takes the paper prescription to their public family doctor who is in the HZZO network. The family doctor creates a digital prescription and attaches it to your HZZO account. You can then go to the pharmacy, hand over your HZZO card, and get the prescription at the insured price.

[Read: List of doctors and doctor offices in English and Croatian]

3. If you’re a tourist

If you are only visiting Croatia as a tourist, you won’t be able to take advantage of the HZZO health insurance system, meaning you’ll pay out of pocket for everything and can only receive paper prescriptions.

In this case, you may only visit private doctors. We recommend going to a poliklinika, which is a doctor’s office that has multiple specialties under one room. There are two that have multiple branches across Croatia that we usually recommend: Agram and Poliklinika Croatia.

[Read: What is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)]

Payment and wait time in Croatia’s ljekarna

If the ljekarna has your prescription on hand, there is little to no wait time. You will get your prescription at the time of request without having to come back.

Ljekarna usually gets the prescription immediately after the doctor sends them electronically. This means that you can usually pick up your medicines after visiting the doctor.

In some cases, they may not have something on hand. In other cases, they may need to prepare it for you. If what you need requires preparation, they may give you a receipt with a number on it for pick up another day.

You may pay for prescriptions with cash or a card.

More information about ljekarna in Croatia

In the United States and the UK, the pharmacy can be part of a larger convenient store that also offers a wide range of items from beauty and kitchen products to pet food and greeting cards. The pharmacy in Croatia is not like this, as it really is only focused on medicine, vitamins, specialized skin care, and other specific health care products.

If you are looking for this type of small-scale type all-around convenient store for toiletries, over-the-counter medicine, hygiene kits, and beauty products, your best bet is DM or Bipa.

Shops that sell over-the-counter medicines are called drogerija. Some of them are called biljna ljekarna/drogerija, which means herbal pharmacy/drugstore. They sell plant-based products.

View our other Croatian healthcare posts

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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