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Also see Proposed features/Chemist for some background on various shops that might fit this tag.

Use of dispensing=* in the US

The "dispensing" needs clarification. In the US, a pharmacist can sell prescription drugs only with a prescription from a doctor. Is that what dispensing=yes means? Also, any store can sell nonprescription drugs (pseudoephedrine hydrochloride aside). So really there are

  • real pharmacies (we wouldn't call it a pharmacy without a pharmacist, which is someone licensed to fill prescriptions)
  • stores that sell hygiene items w/o a pharmacy (hardly ever do these exist)
  • supermarkets that also sell vitamins and aspirin

Reading the rules, I would call these amenity=pharmacy dispensing=yes, shop=chemist, and shop=supermarket, and I have yet to see anything in the US to tag as amenity=pharmacy dispensing=no, but that's fine.

Is it the case in the UK that shop=chemist doesn't sell aspirin and ibuprofen, but only a non-dispensing pharmacy? In that case a US place is probably amenity=pharmacy dispensing=no.

--gdt 13:14, 8 May 2009

Response from UK pharmacist
In the Uk the title pharmacist and pharmacy are protected titles. You can only use them if your are a registered pharmacist and for pharmcies the premises are a registered pharmacy.
In the UK we have three classifications of drugs - General Sales List (GSL), Pharmacy only (P) and Prescription Only (POM). A GSL medicine will usually be for common ailments and usually in relatively small pack sizes - things like aspirin, paracetamol (acetomenofin in the US) and ibuprofen). They are available all over the place - Supermarkets, Fuel Stations, Corner Shops etc.
The Pharmacy Only medicines (I don't think such a classification exists in the US - or many other countries) - can only be sold by or under the supervision of a pharmacist. That would include larger packs of some of the GSL items but also things that might need a pharmacist to assist in weighing up risks and benefits of use. It would include things like emergency contraception, low dose statins, omeprazole, antibiotic eye drops. psuedoephedrine I think has been put into this sort of classification for the US - and always was in the UK.
Then there are things that require a prescription written by a Doctor (or Dentist, or Nurse Prescriber or confusingly (!!) a pharmacist prescriber - but usually a completely different pharmacist who say works in a hospital or GP clinic, and not the one dispensing it). These would include antibiotics (which are almost all POM), cardiac medication, etc...
However, to complicate things even more - almost all UK prescriptions are provided by the National Health Service (NHS). This is a socialised healthcare system where people can either get the medicines free (if they are children, elderly, have a selected medical condition such as diabetes or cancer etc, or are receiving certain state benefits or tax relief) or they pay a small charge (currently £7.20 GBP per item on the prescription). So because prescription medicines are relatively cheap via the NHS - almost all prescriptions are written on NHS prescriptions. (You don't pay to see the doctor either).
However, a pharmacy premises can only dispense an NHS prescription if they have an NHS contract. (The NHS reimburses the pharmacist for the actual drug costs). So potentially there are three (I'm nominally calling them 1a, 1b and 2) classifications of premises which could call themselves a pharmacy:
1. A Pharmacy - with no NHS contract. It would still have a pharmacist onsite to sell P medicines. Thsi may be found at places like airports or train stations where people might "NEED" something relatively strong that would require a pharmacist to sell it, but where they haven't requested or were not granted an NHS contract. There would be two subgroups of this pharmacy: 1a and 1b.
1a. might be located in an afluent area where there may be potentially private patients who would pay for the actual drug costs as you might in the US. (It is slightly legally ambiguous if they can dispense an NHS prescription as a private prescription - but some will). In this case they are still technically a dispensing pharmacy - but they shouldn't show as an NHS dispensing pharmacy.
1b. the same a 1a but perhaps they wouldn't generate enough business from private work so they probably chose not to buy any prescription only medicines in stock. if they are well enough situated (such as a train station) they may still sell a good amount of P medicines to justify the pharmacists over priced salary!
2. A Pharmacy with an NHS contract. They'll dispense anything ;-)
If we wanted to we could define some further types - Hospital Pharmacies in the UK are not (currently) registered with the pharmaceutical society although some may be. They will often only dispense their own prescriptions although some may have an NHS contract too. (Confusing I know as Hospitals are of course part of the NHS!)
Not sure where else other than possibly Southern Ireland has a three classification system of GSL, P and POM - because without the P you can't create a situation where the pharmacy isn't dispensing.
--Polc1410 17:55, 8 May 2009
How would you classify Boots then? Many of them don't have a pharmacy, and my friends from the UK usually refer to Boots as a chemist. Pharmacies in Europe tend to have a specific legal status, and especially in Germany and Austria, are very tightly regulated. Unlike CVS and Walgreens in the US, you have a clear distinction between shops selling convenience, cleaning, and personal hygiene producs on the one hand, and pharmacies dispensing prescription medicines on the other hand.
--Stefan Bethke 20:28, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
Boots has all types of stores - from department stores, health and beauty stores down to you're small 'chemist' with pharmacy counter. There's no one label that fits all for boots. The chemist thing is just really a tie to the orgin of boots. I'd class a boots store on a case by case basis---Pobice 20:59, 8 May 2009 (UTC)
Just noting a distinction between pharmacy-only and general sales over-the-counter medications also exists in Denmark. We also have (or used to have) a different subcategory "pharmacy outlet", which are regular village stores selling OTC products and handing out already filled prescriptions on behalf of the nearest market town pharmacy (prescription sent or faxed, filled prescription arriving on daily delivery run), so no pharmacist actually at the outlet. Jbohmdk (talk) 03:34, 17 February 2019 (UTC)

Distinguish from shop=chemist

I've done a bit of tidy up of this page to clear away old voting discussions. Also...

Somebody wrote the following on the Key:shop page as a description of shop=chemist: "A shop selling articles of personal hygiene, cosmetics, and household cleaning products (for a shop that potentially dispenses prescription drugs, cf. pharmacy. U.S. drug store, see amenity=pharmacy)"

I have lifted that text and used it to write the definition more clearly on this page ...well provide some description at least. However I don't know how widely accepted the definition is, and I'd like the distinction to be more clear. So are we saying a shop=chemist doesn't sell any drugs, otherwise it's am amenity=pharmacy? This works well as a verifiable way of telling one from the other, but doesn't fit with my (UK) understanding of the word "chemist". Don't really mind that though, as long as the distinction between the two tags is clear.

-- Harry Wood 12:29, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

Improved now.
We could do with a photo which more clearly illustrates a pharmacy by this definition. The current photo of a boots store is OK, but when it comes to boots I guess we should follow what User:Pobice says above. Each boots store should be tagged on a case-by-case basis depending on whether it has a pharmacy counter. So a photo of a boot store also showing the pharmacy counter would be best. Or maybe a sign outside indicating the pharmacy status. We need the converse photo a description to be added to the chemist page too of course
-- Harry Wood 09:27, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Clarify dispensing

My english is not good enough to say whether "does not fill prescriptions" is the same as "is not able to sell prescription drugs". Is it the same or not? -- User:Jakubt 23:09, 11 September 2009

For this discussion, it is the same. The doctor writes the prescription for a drug, the pharmacist fills the prescription by selling (or dispensing) the drug to the patient. Normally, dispensing would refer to selling or distributing only a prescription drug by someone licensed to do so (at least in the US).
Too much analysis: technically "does not fill" could be by choice, and "is not able to" implies that it is not allowed or otherwise restricted, so they aren't necessarily the same, but that's a whole other topic for discussion. --Granack 03:56, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
Is any of these default? "dispensing=yes" or "dispensing=no"? --Kslotte 17:46, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
Answering myself, "dispensing=no" is default. It reads on the proposal page. And I filled it on the main page also.

Why amenity=pharmacy and not shop=pharmacy?

Why is this tag called amenity=pharmacy and not shop=pharmacy? --Head 16:43, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

Superstore pharmacies

Is there an accepted scheme for tagging pharmacies in part of a much larger store? In the UK, most large supermarkets have their own pharmacy in store. Currently, I'm tagging pharmacy=yes (and pharmacy:*=* to specify pharmacy specific details) on the shop node/way, as well as a separate node tagged normally so existing data users can identify it. --Dee Earley (talk) 17:37, 8 June 2013 (UTC)

The same question in the U.S. Many pharmacy-type stores (e.g. CVS) have an outer store that sells various things (shampoo, razors, makeup, over-the-counter medication that does not require a prescription) and an inner pharmacy that actually dispenses prescription drugs. The pharmacy proper often has narrower hours, and this is relevant information. I think I'm going to map them as entirely separate features, with shop=chemist for the outer store, since pharmacy:opening_hours=* does not seem to be widely adopted yet (only 3) and would require special support by apps and renderers. Mattflaschen (talk) 23:31, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Currently, the NSI has separate presets for stores and pharmacies. For example, Safeway has a preset for supermarkets and a preset for its pharmacy counters. As stated above, I believe the best way to support pharmacies in bigger stores is by having the store and pharmacy as two separate nodes. TheAdventurer64 (talk) 22:35, 21 July 2022 (UTC)

Finland statement needs clarification

The page currently contains the following broken sentence added by Kslotte: "In the following countries pharmacies does not fill prescriptions (tag dispensing=* is not needed to fill in): Finland, ...". this presumably needs to be rewritten to one of the following, depending what is the actual situation in Finland:

  • In the following countries, no pharmacies fulfill prescriptions (tag dispensing=* is always no and not needed on map): Finland, ...
  • In the following countries, all pharmacies fulfill doctor's prescriptions (tag dispensing=* is always yes and not needed on map): Finland, ...
  • In the following countries, pharmacies don't fulfill prescriptions unless otherwise tagged (tag dispensing=no is default unless dispensing=yes is tagged): Finland, ...
  • In the following countries, pharmacies fulfill prescriptions unless otherwise tagged (tag dispensing=yes is default unless dispensing=no is tagged): Finland, Denmark, ...
  • In the following countries, pharmacies never need a doctors prescription to sell any drugs to anyone (tag dispensing=* is not needed on map): Finland, ...
  • In the following countries, pharmacies do not write their own prescriptions (they only fulfill prescriptions written by a doctor or similar): Finland, England, US, Germany, Denmark, (very long list, covering most of the world), ...

I suspect someone got the phrase "fill prescriptions" wrong, but I can't be sure.

(Note: User Pieren asked essentially the same question on Kslotte's Talk page in 2013, but no response in 5 years)

Jbohmdk (talk) 04:29, 17 February 2019 (UTC)

drive_through or delivery?

There is a strange phrase in the article:

  • drive_through=* - Whether this pharmacy offers drive-through service

Perhaps the description is erroneous and should be something like:

  • drive_through=* - to indicate if an amenity offers a drive-through service
  • delivery=* - sets whether the pharmacy offers delivery service

Grass-snake (talk) 11:11, 1 June 2023 (UTC)


How do you tag a pharmacy that is on-call? Such a pharmacy is open 24/7 (or sometimes for a shorter duration), but is only fully staffed on working hours (e.g., 08:00-16:00) and a pharmacist sleeps there who you can ring so she can serve you. Service provided outside of working hours are charged extra (as a flat "on-call fee"). Bkil (talk) 09:11, 26 September 2023 (UTC)