How to fill medicine prescriptions in Croatia
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.
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How to fill medicine prescriptions 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
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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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
- 7 surprising facts about Croatia’s healthcare
- Croatia’s state health care obvezno insurance
- Croatian Institute for Public Health Offices (HZJZ)
- Healthcare and health insurance in Croatia
- HZZO list of local health insurance offices
- How EU/EEA citizens (and Croats) can sign up for Croatian state health insurance
- How third-country citizens can sign up for state health insurance in Croatia
- How to get travel insurance in Croatia (putno), which you can use to apply for residence
- What is dodatno health insurance
- What is dopunsko health insurance
- Why you must have health insurance
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.