Medicine and pharmaceutics in Spain are substantial components of its culture. This country is the birthplace of the first modern pharmacies. In the XI century, the first European prototypes of pharmacies – tiny kiosks that sold medicines and usually were located at the monasteries – emerged in Spain. The main divergence from their modern equivalent was the absolutely free distribution of medications, should a person’s need for the remedy be critical. After several hundreds of years, the first school for pharmacists in the modern sense of this word opened in Barcelona in the XVI century. Shortly afterwards, the first textbook containing the medication production rules was published. For these reasons, Spain surely can be called the cradle of pharmaceutics, for it was the Spanish experience and history that served as a basis for the development of pharmacies in other countries.
Nowadays, it is very easy to find a pharmacy in Barcelona: of the more than twenty thousand pharmacies all over Spain, almost three thousand pharmacies are located in Catalonia, with special density in its capital. Today, more than 98% of the Spanish people have convenient access to the country’s pharmaceutical services. Of the European countries, Spain is ranked fifth in the domestic pharmaceutical market turnover. This less-than-impressive index for the birthplace of modern pharmacies is related to the Spanish government’s efforts to close the gap in the budget caused by the deteriorating economic crisis of 2008, including by means of cuts to the country’s medical expenses.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of pharmacies in Barcelona, and the average distance between them is 250 meters (this is a parameter that also has been established by law). The pharmacy business in Spain functions according to certain rules that can be summarized as follows.
- As with other European countries, there are no pharmacy networks in Spain. According to the law, a pharmacy can be opened only by a certified pharmacist who has passed all the stages of pharmaceutical training (5.5 years of study and 2 years of practice). Moreover, this person is required to be involved in the pharmacy’s administration on a daily basis as well as to perform the functions of pharmaceutical consultant and vendor.
- A pharmacy can be opened only by a pharmacist who is registered with the main authority on the regulation of the pharmacy business in Spain – the General Spanish Council of Pharmacists (CGCOF). Additionally, this person must hold a special license to open and run a pharmacy. At the moment, approximately 47 thousand pharmacists are registered with the council, and about 55% of these are authorized by law to open a small private business.
- As the law stipulates, every pharmacy can provide services for 2800-4000 residents. In practice, every pharmacy serves about 2000 residents since there are so many pharmacies in the Spanish cities. In Navarra, for example, the pharmacies lie 150 meters apart from one another.
- Of the great variety of pharmacies in Barcelona, it is easy for customers to find the location closest to them: all have a signboard reading, “Farmàcia,” and a green cross next to it, while veterinarian pharmacies feature a blue cross, and the Red Cross pharmacies have a red one.
- The pharmacies in Barcelona are not just places where patients can purchase medications. People also can come, absolutely free of charge, to check their height or weight, measure their blood pressure, and sometimes even get an AIDS/HIV test. In the case that a patient does not have a serious diagnosis or simply feels unwell, it is possible to go to a pharmacy in Barcelona for a consultation and to buy the medication the pharmacist recommends, depending on the symptoms and diagnosis.
The opening hours of pharmacies in Barcelona and rules for medicine purchase
Like many other city establishments, the pharmacies of Barcelona are closed for siesta and usually open from 9.30 a.m. to 14:00 and re-open from 17:00 to 20:00. However, it is always possible to find pharmacies with non-standard opening hours called “pharmacies on duty,” or “Farmacias de Guardia.” Their addresses can be found online. If you come to a typical pharmacy but it appears to be closed, on its doors you will always see the address of the nearest pharmacy on duty and its opening hours. Most pharmacies in Barcelona that are open on Sunday are the pharmacies on duty. In addition, a couple dozen pharmacies in Barcelona are open around the clock (24/7 pharmacies), such as “Farmàcia Laguna Ventosa” in Eixample district and “Farmàcia Hormigós” in Sants-Montjuic.
The pharmacies in Barcelona feature another convenient service: a home delivery option. In order to take advantage of this service, a customer must go to the pharmacy’s website or call a special phone number and explain which medicine is required. “Farmàcia Bonanova” is one of the most famous pharmacies in the city that offers this kind of service.
It is helpful to remember that the Spanish pharmacies have a monopoly on the sale of both prescribed and over-the-counter medications. This feature makes the Spanish pharmacy business strikingly different from its analogs in other Western European countries, where customers often can buy medicine in a supermarket. Moreover, in accordance with Law 29/2006, on “Guarantees and Rational Use of Medicines and Medical Products,” it is prohibited to buy medications online in the territory of Spain. When you hear about online pharmacies in Barcelona, it is very likely that “para-pharmacies” are being described, where you can buy only the products that are not considered to be 100% medical in nature. This category includes the following items: children’s care items, orthopedic objects, natural cosmetics, biologically active supplements, cotton discs, cotton sticks, condoms, etc. All these items that are not included in the category of medications can be purchased both online and in large supermarkets, such as “Mercadona” or “Carrefour.”
When you arrive at a pharmacy in Barcelona, remember that even if the medicine you need is not available at the moment, you are sure to be offered an alternative. For this reason, it is a good idea to know the international, unpatented name of the medication you need or the name of the active substance in its composition. Another convenient option is the possibility for the pharmacy to order a medicine if it is not available directly at the moment. Since medical products are delivered to pharmacies about three times per day, you can get a necessary medication approximately 3-4 hours after making your request.
The specialists of “INEEDSpain” service center are always glad to provide a consultation for you on any issues related to medicine and pharmaceutics in Barcelona, as well as to help you find the nearest pharmacy and place your order.