The Vatican Pharmacy

My dog Lula has a rare ailment known as Addison’s Disease. This is a condition where the adrenal gland doesn’t produce enough cortisol or aldosterone. President Kennedy had Addison’s so Lula is in good company. It is very treatable but requires continuous medication. For a couple of years, I was giving her monthly injections and daily doses of cortisone but then the injectable drug went off the market (why does that happen?). So after a long and careful search, the handsome vet came up with a viable alternative. Problem was it was not yet available in Italy. Enter the Vatican Pharmacy.

Italy unsurprisingly has a very lengthy and bureaucratic drug approval process. Since Vatican City is an independent sovereign state, the pharmacy can get access to drugs that are otherwise unobtainable here. Unlike Italian pharmacies, it will also fill foreign prescriptions. As a result it is supposedly the busiest pharmacy in the world with 2000 customers a day. To get in, you need to show your prescription to one of the handsome Swiss Guards at the entrance to Vatican City and get a special pass. The Vatican Pharmacy does not carry any products that are contrary to Catholic social teaching (condoms, Viagra) but it does carry lots of top-brand beauty products at reduced prices. The top selling product is a hemorrhoid remedy and the best selling drug is Valium.


5 responses to “The Vatican Pharmacy

  1. Handsome was mentioned twice in that post. I feel we need to know more ……

  2. I am a resident in italy now and has medication in uk but Italian doctor told me to get it from the Vatican pharmacy but don’t have prescription so what do I do can I just ring and ask for what I want ?

    • Hi Dee. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. You’ll need to show a prescription to get into the Vatican pharmacy and even to get by the Swiss Guards at the gate.
      Best, Ruth.

  3. Hi Ruth! My name is Allison Shapiro, and I’m a journalist with Pacific Standard (an American magazine all about social science and social justice–you can find us at writing a story about the Vatican pharmacy. I was wondering if I could talk to you for a couple minutes about what it’s like to use the pharmacy. You can reach me at

    Thanks so much!

  4. Sure Allison. Happy to talk to you.

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