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《Do you know the differences between Pharmacy & Medicine Store?》

What is a licensed drug retailer?

Licensed drug retailers include registered pharmacy (hereinafter referred to as "pharmacy") and licensed medicine store (hereinafter referred to as "medicine store"). They are authorized by the Laws of Hong Kong to sell drugs of different categories.

  1. Pharmacy/ Dispensary
    According to the Laws of Hong Kong, “Pharmacy” or “Dispensary” is a restricted title for a shop granted a valid licence of "Authorized Seller of Poisons" (ASP).

  2. Medicine store
    It is a generic title for a shop granted a licence of "Listed Sellers of Poisons", in general, the vendors may also use titles such as “Medicine Shop” and “Medicine Company”.

What are the differences between a pharmacy and a medicine store?

Pharmacy Medicine Store
Use the title of “Pharmacy” or “Dispensary” x
Use “Rx” logo x
With duty pharmacist in the shop x
Dispense prescription drugs (under supervision of a pharmacist) x
Sell pharmacist-only controlled medicines x
Sell common drugs, such as cold and flu medicines

How can I ascertain whether a store is a registered pharmacy or a licensed medicine store?

You may find that most registered pharmacy would display a “Pharmacy” or “Dispensary” title and a “Rx” logo. You can also see the certificate of registration of the duty pharmacist at a conspicuous location in the shop.

In addition, you can verify whether the shop is a registered pharmacy or a licensed medicine store by entering the business name or address of the shop under the "Search Drug Dealers" function in the following Drug Office website:

It is noted that only pharmacy would have pharmacist on duty, how can I know that who is the pharmacist and the hours of duty?

You can find the following information at a conspicuous location in the pharmacy:
  1. Name of the pharmacist

  2. Certificate of registration of the pharmacist

  3. A notice listing out the attendance hours of the pharmacist

Pharmacist is required to be present in the shop for at least two-thirds of the business hours of the shop to supervise the sale of drugs.

You should consult the pharmacist upon purchasing medicine from pharmacy as pharmacists have received professional training on medicine, and could recommend appropriate medicine for you with information on how to use the medicine correctly, and advise you on the relevant precautions.

Regulation of Western Medicine (Pharmaceutical Product)

What is “western medicine”?

In general, "western medicine" refers to "pharmaceutical product", or we simply refer it as “medicine”. According to Laws of Hong Kong, pharmaceutical products
  • (a) means a substance, or combination of substances that —

    • (i) is presented as having properties for treating or preventing disease in human beings or animals; or

    • (ii) may be used in or administered to human beings or animals with a view to —

        (A) restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action; or

        (B) making a medical diagnosis; and

  • (b) includes an advanced therapy product.

What information should I pay attention to when buying medicine?

You should be aware of the information on the outer packing of the medicine (see figure below).

Can western medicine (medicine) be freely sold in Hong Kong?

  1. Medicine must be registered before sale or possession for sale in Hong Kong.

  2. Medicine will be given a registration number in the form of “HK-XXXXX” after the Pharmacy and Poisons Board approved for its registration. This number will be printed on the outer packing of the medicine.

  3. Importers of medicine must hold the relevant trader licences issued by the Department of Health in order to import these goods, along with an import licence issued by Department of Health as authorized by the Director of Trade and Industry Department.

  4. Medicine may be divided into the following three categories according to their characteristics, the nature of the disease being treated, and their side effects. You may refer to the following table for details.

Category On doctor’s prescription Pharmacist’s supervision Nature of medicine and examples Sales location
  1. Often used for treatment of more serious or chronic illness.

  2. Incorrect dose or improper use may be hazardous to health.

  3. Examples: antihypertensive drugs, diabetic drugs, antibiotics, sedatives, etc.
2 x
  1. May cause more side effects than medicines in category 3. Patients must comply with the instructed method of use and dosage to avoid hazard to health.

  2. Examples: Quick-relief inhaled drugs to soothe asthma, cough syrup with low codeine content, etc.
3 x x
  1. Used to treat or relieve mild symptoms, with fewer side effects.

  2. Examples: cold & flu drugs, anti-pyretics, analgesics, etc.
Pharmacy or licensed medicine store


(A) Retailers Regulatory Unit, Licensing and Compliance Division, Drug Office:

Telephone : 2961 8448
Address : Room 2550, 25/F., Wu Chung House, 213 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

(B) Email:

Last updated: 3 Aug 2021