Access to Medicines via Non-Pharmacy Outlets in European Countries-A Review of Regulations and the Influence on the Self-Medication Phenomenon

Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Jan 26;9(2):123. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9020123.


Non-pharmacy trade concerns the sale of medicinal products outside of pharmacies, such as limited-service pharmacies, supermarkets, petrol stations, shops open to the public, and kiosks. Access to medicinal products via non-pharmacy outlets varies across the European countries, with a general deregulation of this market area observable. Increasing the availability of medicines by allowing patients to obtain them outside of pharmacies contributes to the spread of self-medication. The aim of this article was to review the legal regulations enabling the non-pharmacy trade in OTC (over the counter) medicinal products in European countries, with particular emphasis on the analysis of active substances contained in medicines available in the non-pharmacy trade. This analysis has made it possible to distinguish three categories of countries: (1) where there is a non-pharmacy trade in OTC medicinal products, (2) where there is a limited non-pharmacy trade in OTC medicines, (3) where there is only a pharmacy trade in OTC medicinal products. In the context of these considerations, we highlight the impact of patient access to medicinal products via non-pharmacy sources on raising the prevalence of self-medication. This article identifies the advantages and risks of self-medication, emphasising the role of the pharmacist as an advisor to patients within the scope of the therapies used.

Keywords: OTC medicines; non-pharmacy trade; pharmaceutical care; pharmaceutical market.

Publication types

  • Review