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 certain 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 are some drugs that even the 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 recently designed standard prescriptions for all doctors. This is to avoid people making fake prescriptions with their computer printers at home.
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, like those located around El Corte Ingles department stores in Mesa y Lopez, Las Palmas. This price difference is applicable to everything but medicines; people get the feeling that everything is cheaper, and that's why they're always crowded.