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Prescriptions and Medications

Spain - Prescriptions and Medications

Pharmacies in Spain work very differently than they do in the UK as there are medications which are readily available over the counter without a prescription, such as antibiotics. This means that a visit to a hospital or GP is not always needed and you can simply seek advice from a pharmacist if you believe that the condition that you have is mild.

Most pharmacies are open from 9.30 am until 2 pm and then again from 5 pm to 9.30 pm from Monday to Friday. Saturday opening hours are from 9.30 am until 2 pm. There are a number of pharmacies in each region which operate a 24 hour service and the details of the nearest one will be posted on your local pharmacy (farmacia) door. The pharmacy sign used in Spain is the same as in the UK, the green cross.

The way in which a prescription (receta) is issued is also different from that in the UK. If you attend the emergency department of a hospital the doctor there will not give you a prescription. You will simply receive a medical report which you will then need to take to a GP who will give you a prescription. There are no restrictions on which pharmacies that you use.

Prescriptions do incur charges (cargos por receta). If you have proof that you are an EU resident and of pensionable age then the prescription is free of charge. All other patients will need to pay up to 40% of the cost of the medication, but they will need to be registered with the Spanish social security department or have an EU medical card in order to qualify for this. If not they are liable for the whole cost of the medication (medicamento). In some instances these charges can be reclaimed, either from private medical insurance or from the EU. Each item is priced individually, unlike in the UK where there is a standard prescription fee. However, it is considered that prescriptions in Spain are still much cheaper than in other European nations.

The brand names of some medications will change from country to country so you need to make yourself aware of the generic name so that you have an idea what to ask for when you are in Spain. When medications are issued they are not measured out into bottles as they are in the UK, but they are in boxes with a set number of tablets in each box. Pharmacists are not permitted to split the boxes, so you may end up with more medication than you actually need. The pharmacist (farmaceutico) will also be able to advise you on the correct method of disposal for any unused medications.

All pharmacists must be registered with the local pharmaceutical association and these are all part of a larger organisation – the Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Farmaceuticos. A pharmacist that is registered with this body is able to offer a good range of advice and services.

Most pharmacies are part of a chain although there are some independent pharmacists in most regions.

Useful Resources

Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Farmaceuticos
General Council for Spanish Pharmacies
http://www.portalfarma.com/Home.nsf/Home?OpenForm (English site available)

Online Regional Map for Pharmacy Search

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

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