How to save money on medicine in Gran Canaria
Let's say you're in Gran Canaria and you have a headache. It may or may not be connected to the cerveza you drank the night before the morning after.
You need some paracetamol but the shops and supermarkets don't stock them. That's because medicine in Spain can only be sold by licensed chemists.
Luckily, chemists are easy to find as each one has a big green cross outside and they are called 'Farmacia'. Or you can use this tool to locate the nearest one.
You get to the front of the queue (get a number from the ticket machine when you first walk in or you'll find that you don't get served).
Alex says: Paracetamol in Spanish is pronounced 'para-setter-moll'. It is also called acetaminophen.
The pharmacist quotes you a price that sounds way too high for a box of headache pills (anything over €1.50 is too much).
You've just been brand-jacked; the pharmacist has offered you the most expensive brand of paracetamol.
The magic four words
All you have to do if you think you've been brand-jacked is say these four words to the pharmacist
¿tiene la version genérica?
You've just asked if they stock a cheaper, generic version of the drug. For most common medicines, there is a cheaper option.
If there is, the pharmacist has to tell you about it and go and get it.
Feel free to give any pharmacist that brand-jacks you a funny look.
Do all Gran Canaria farmacias do this?
No, some offer you the cheapest option straight away. But, in our experience, they assume that foreigners want a branded medicine (or just won't know that they can get a cheaper version).
If a farmacia doesn't stock a cheaper generic, you have to pay for the branded option, or try a bigger chemist.
Or, if it isn't urgent, ask them to order it.
¿La pueden pedir?
What is a parafarmacia?
Parafarmcias are shops pretending to be chemists, but they aren't allowed to sell real medicine.
Instead, they sell herbal medicine with important-sounding names, homoeopathic 'cures' (good luck with them) and other non-medical stuff like sun cream, shampoo, and toothbrushes.
Parafarmacias will happily sell you a pack of headache tablets, but they won't contain paracetamol or ibuprofen because they aren't allowed to sell them.
A pack of 20 paracetamol tablets costs about €1.50. A pack of herbal headache pills can cost €15.
In fact, most stuff in Gran Canaria parafarmacias is much more expensive than in the local supermarket. But the person behind the counter wears a white coat, so it must be better.
We'll leave you to decide if that's true or not.
Alex says: Real farmacias in Gran Canaria can and do sell homeopathic 'medicine' and overpriced shampoo along with the real stuff.
Other things to look out for?
If you need a supply of a particular medicine during your Gran Canaria visit, bring it with you. This is especially true if it's a prescription med.
If you don't or can't bring a supply of meds, then make sure you know the name of the actual drug as many Spanish brand names are different.
Also, be aware that smaller farmacias have to order specialist products and they can take a day or two to come.
Lex says: Always bring a valid EHIC card with you to Gran Canaria as it will save you a fortune if you need serious medical treatment. Here's more info on the EHIC card in Gran Canaria.