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Farmacias

When I was taking the picture of the temperature display outside one of the chemist's here in Ciudad Rodrigo for the post below I saw the usual notice to say which was the duty chemist today and it caused me to ponder on the differences between Spanish chemists and their Brit equivalent.

There are no multiple chemists in Spain, the phramacist must own and run their own business. If a place is large enough to have a pharmacy (and there's some legal stipulation about how big a town has to be to warrant a chemist and how many chemists there can be for such and such a population) then there is guaranteed 24hr a day cover. I suppose if there's just one farmacia in a small town then the pharmacist can expect a lot of interrupted nights! This licensing of chemists shops, as distinct from the licensing of the pharmacists themselves, has been getting more controversial recently as newly trained pharmacists are angry about the difficulty of opening their own business when so many operating licences are handed on in a "father to son" manner. This exclusivity also has an effect on the prices of medicines.

I understand that the training for pharmacists here is pretty thorough and that their qualifications are much more akin to those of a British GP than a British pharmacist. Certainly they seem to know their stuff and they usually seem kitted out to arrange for lots of the sort of tests that we would expect a doctor to provide.

The prescription drugs that they sell are pretty cheap by UK standards and, although you're not supposed to be able to get prescription drugs without a scrip that's not actually the case - usually they'll hand over anti biotics and what not without any fuss. If you have a scrip the drugs are 60% subsidised by the Social Security system. Whilst proper drugs are cheap the semi serious and flim flam stuff is exorbitantly priced. Medicines such as headache tabs, throat lozenges, haemorrhoid cream and cold and flu remedies aren't available in the local supermarket, newsagent or petrol station and can only be bought from a chemists. It can be a shock to the wallet.

Oh, and something else vaguely related. If I needed immediate medical treatment in the UK I would search out an emergency unit whilst the Spanish would go to an urgency unit (Spanish has both words - emergencias and urgencias.) I asked a Spanish pal why the distinction and he told me that only a medical professional could say for definite whether something was a medical emergency or not whereas anyone could decide that something was urgent.

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