Surgeons prescribe medication

Who can prescribe medicines?

Only doctors are allowed to prescribe prescription drugs. Neither psychologists, alternative practitioners nor members of other health professions are allowed to write prescriptions. But not every doctor is allowed to prescribe everything.

Doctors prescribe prescription and non-prescription drugs. The health insurance companies only cover the costs for a prescription drug if the contract doctor prescribes the drug on a health insurance prescription and it is not excluded from the catalog of services.

Prescription of non-prescription drugs

The doctor usually prescribes non-prescription drugs on a green prescription. This often includes herbal, anthroposophic and homeopathic medicines, but also common painkillers and cold medicines. They are known as OTC (over the counter) funds.

For children younger than twelve years and adolescents with developmental disorders up to the age of 18, the doctor may also prescribe non-prescription drugs such as nasal sprays, lice agents or inhalants at health insurance costs.

Doctors and dentists may only prescribe narcotics on the official forms provided. The Federal Opium Agency issues these personally for a doctor. The recipe is only valid for seven days.

Since March 2017, patients with serious illnesses have been entitled to cannabis under certain conditions. Should therapy be necessary, the doctor will prescribe cannabis on a narcotic prescription. The health insurance companies cover the costs of the therapy, which must, however, be approved in advance. If the approval is given, the attending physician may issue a narcotic drug prescription.

Off-label drug use

Many drugs work against several diseases. However, a drug is often not approved for all diseases that it could help against. In an emergency, doctors can then prescribe it in so-called “off-label use”: They prescribe a certain drug for a disease for which it is not approved. The off-label-use drug is prescribed on a prescription.

Since drug safety is the top priority, the medical service checks the health insurance companies (MDK) whether all criteria for a prescription have been met. For example, no other therapy must be available and the data situation must be so conclusive that a successful treatment is possible with the drug.

Since the side effects of drugs in off-label use are often not systematically researched, patients receive comprehensive information before use.

Sometimes it is also necessary to use medicines that are only available abroad. As with off-label use, certain criteria must be met for the health insurance companies to cover the costs. Foreign drugs are also prescribed on a prescription. As with off-label-use drugs, only doctors may prescribe.

Limited prescriptions by health professionals

Not all doctors are allowed to prescribe all prescription drugs. For example, dentists' prescriptions may only contain products that are used to treat tooth, mouth and jaw problems. This includes:

  • Painkiller,
  • Antibiotics,
  • Sedatives as well
  • Therapeutics for the throat, provided that they are used to treat diseases of the teeth, mouth and jaw.

The dentist is not allowed to prescribe drugs because of high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels or skin problems.

All other health professions have limited or no access to drugs. Psychologists are not allowed to prescribe psychotropic drugs - even if they have known the patient better and longer than the neurologist or psychiatrist who is also treating them.

Midwives and maternity assistants are only allowed to prescribe and purchase prescription drugs that they need to practice their profession. This includes:

  • Contractions,
  • topical anesthetic used to treat a perineal incision as well
  • Means to stop bleeding after childbirth.
  • They are not allowed to hand these funds over to their patients.

Alternative practitioners can purchase prescription drugs. These are defined emergency remedies, for example against an allergy shock, which you can only use when a doctor is not on hand. Naturopaths sometimes prescribe their patients non-prescription drugs. The health insurance companies do not cover the costs. The recipe is then more like a memo or application aid.