The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to a huge number of immigrants. In fact, recent estimates indicate that a staggering 80% of the total population in the UAE is made up of expats. Many of those expats are from western countries, so you can expect a very high standard of healthcare in the UAE that often feels superior to what you might expect from a medical facility in the UK. That said, there are a few differences, and people are often particularly caught out by UAE pharmacies.
Stricter drug laws
Most expats settle in an ultra-modern metropolis like Dubai or Abu Dhabi when they relocate to the UAE. These famous business hubs feel incredibly luxurious, and you won’t have any trouble finding a 24/7 pharmacy. What might surprise you is that, despite the very modern feel of these cities, many medications that would have been available over the counter in the UK are much harder to get a hold of in the UAE due to the country’s much stricter drug laws.
What medications are problematic?
It’s hard to produce an exhaustive list of the medications that are affected by the UAE’s drug laws, but anti-depressants and most kinds of sleeping pills are usually the ones that expats find tough to source. And there are plenty of others that you might not be able to get in the UAE. Maybe you’re used to taking codeine to cope with migraines and expect to be able to get it just as easily in the UAE – unfortunately, it’s a controlled substance over there. You could actually face jailtime for possessing it, although prison is a very unlikely consequence of possessing some.
Plan and prepare
If you’re taking any medication or have previously relied on a certain medication, take the time to find out whether it is legal in the UAE. You should then speak to your doctor to investigate whether certain medications can be imported. You may sometimes need a prescription note for fairly routine medications, or possibly prior permission from the UAE Ministry of Health. If your medication will be unavailable, your doctor should be able to recommend and alternative that is legal within the Emirates.