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Pharmacy ownership

In 2001, Norway liberalized the pharmacy ownership system

The new legislation led to a great change in ownership – one of the greater changes in the sector’s 400-year history. Most pharmacies are owned by pharmacy chains. 

The four main chains are called Apotek 1, Boots apotek, Vitusapotek and Ditt apotek. To manage a pharmacy, you need the appropriate professional training, including a master’s degree in pharmacy.

Three large international pharmacy companies, each vertically integrated with a pharmaceutical wholesaler, own 84 per cent of all pharmacies in Norway.

Pharmacy chain




Alliance Healthcare Norge AS

AmerisourceBergen (USA)



 McKesson Corporation (USA)

Apotek 1

Apotek 1 Gruppen AS

Phoenix (Germany)

Today the Norwegian pharmacy sector is recognized by: 

  • Free establishment of pharmacies – no establishment criteria
  • Free ownership of pharmacies – except pharmaceutical manufacturers and doctors
  • Pharmacy managers must hold a master’s degree in pharmacy
  • No limit of the number of pharmacies that can be owned by one pharmacy owner – horizontally integrated pharmacy chains are allowed
  • Vertical integration between wholesalers and pharmacies/ pharmacy chains is allowed

As a result of the changes in the Pharmacy Act in 2001, the general public has considerably better accessibility to pharmacies, as the number of pharmacies has increased from 399 in February 2001 to a total of 1045 at the end of 2022.


Norwegian pharmacies are mainly run as private enterprises. Only the hospital pharmacies are owned by the public sector (Regional Health Authorities). Nevertheless, the pharmacies are considered part of the Norwegian health service.

The Norwegian Pharmacy Act defines a pharmacy as a physically accessible place for drug sale to end-users where drug-related guidance is provided. Pharmacies ensures safe deliveries of drugs to end users and contributes to the correct drug use in the population. As of 2020 internet pharmacies can operate in Norway if they are part of a physical pharmacy.

By the end of 2022 there were 1 045 pharmacies in Norway, among these 1012 are community pharmacies and 33 are hospital pharmacies.

Community pharmacy is a pharmacy where dispensing of medicines happens under the supervision of a pharmacist.

Hospital pharmacy is a pharmacy co-located with a public or private hospital and where drug supply to the hospital is the main task. 

Inhabitants per pharmacy

On average, there were 5,300 inhabitants per pharmacy as of 1st of January 2023. At the end of 2000, the average number of inhabitants per pharmacy was 11,280.





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