If you need any medicines, you will have to visit one of the Gran Canaria pharmacies. Other shops or supermarkets aren’t allowed to sell any drugs, even those that don’t require prescription, such as Aspirin or Paracetamol. For most medicines, like antibiotics, you will need a doctor's prescription, otherwise they won't sell them to you.
Only the pharmacist is qualified to recommend you to take a particular drug. He or she has got a university degree, which takes a minimum of five years to get. The rest of the staff that you will find in local chemists, have only studied for two years. So, if you have a serious ailment or want to ask a difficult question, always ask for the pharmacist.
There many drugs that a pharmacist can’t sell to you without a doctor’s prescription. The most common are antibiotics. Because Spaniards used to self-medicate themselves when feeling ill, the health department of the government decided to make antibiotics hard to buy. This was done to avoid more drug-resistant superbugs from developing. If you have to go to a Spanish doctor, he might prescribe stronger dosage for the same antibiotic, then you would be prescribed in your home country. If you go to the pharmacy to buy an antibiotic, without a prescription, they will refuse to give it to you. If you go with a prescription, the pharmacy staff will keep it, and give you the antibiotic. You can request them to make a photocopy of the prescription, which they generally do free of charge.
The Spanish doctor's association has designed standard prescriptions for all doctors. This is to avoid people making fake prescriptions with their computer printers at home.
Update December 2022: It's getting harder and harder to buy most drugs in Gran Canaria pharmacies without a doctor's prescription. The Health Dept. has inspectors going around pretending to be genuine customers who try to buy certain medicines without a prescription, and then fine the pharmacies for selling them.
There is also a shortage of some medicines because the makers have decided to stop distributing them.
If you think that you may need to buy your meds while on holiday, ask your doctor to give you a prescription. It doesn't matter if your doctor is from the UK, or any other country.
Yes. All pharmacies in Canary Islands sell all the medicines at the same prices. These prices are approved by the central government. To avoid changing price tags when price changes, a few years ago, medicines don’t come with the prices printed on their boxes anymore. Some pharmacies may overcharge their customers due to this, but the cases are rare. It is always a good idea to request a receipt every time you buy something.
No. Anything that isn’t considered a “medicine” such as suntan lotions, shampoos and soaps for people with sensitive skin, Band-Aids, mosquito repellent creams, supplements like Royal Jelly, etc. can be priced without any restrictions.
There are two kinds of Gran Canaria pharmacies. The small ones buy their supplies from the local distributor. The big ones jump this middleman, and get their supplies directly from the manufacturers, in mainland Spain. Therefore, the big ones can offer prices to the end-users, about 30% (or more) cheaper. This price difference is applicable to everything but prescription medicines. People get the feeling that everything is cheaper, and that's why they're always crowded.
If you're down south, Monica Suarez's modern pharmacy is located in San Agustin. Her team speaks English as well as German.
Calle de las Ahulagas, 1
35100 San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Las Palmas
Please note that none of these pharmacies have paid anything to be included on our site.