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Insulin in Spain

Hello:

Does buying insulin require a doctor's prescription in Spain? I am just wondering. Is it cheaper than in the US? We are going for more than one month and don't always have access to a fridge while we travel. It'd be much more convenient to buy more during the trip and than bringing multiple backup vials and risking them get ruined. The final part of our trip will be in Menorca, where we will be out on the beach bathing under the hot sun for hours.

Some friends and colleagues of mine have made insulin purchase trips to Canada, where it's cheaper and doesn't require a prescription.

Posted by
9518 posts

You might inquire of the American Embassy in Spain. They will have lists of doctors that speak English and may be able to help you.

Posted by
4243 posts

You can buy insulin in Spain, you don't require a Spanish prescription, a copy of your usual prescription should suffice. My wfe recently forgot her medicine when she went to Barcelona, I sent her a photo of her prescription and she was able to buy it over the counter in a pharmacy (quite cheap too).

Posted by
6554 posts

J.C. Do you recall the price of insulin vials in Spain? The stuff in the U.S. is about $320 per vial.

Insulin is best always kept in a refrigerator or cooler. But it doesn't have to be kept cold 100% of the time. They do have ice in Spain.
I'm on an insulin pump and have had no problems when being on the road in Spain 2 mos. ago.

Posted by
260 posts

Hi Barkinpark,

I asked my local pharmacy here what would be needed for here to insulin to a tourist in need. She said a letter or note from the doctor with the type of insulin and the dosage. She kinda stressed the part about the type of insulin.
Sorry I did not ask the price.

Posted by
4978 posts

She kinda stressed the part about the type of insulin

I do not require insulin, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but this was my first thought, have family and friends that do require Insulin, and they talk quite often about brands and different types (Insulin is not just "Insulin") and how they need to stick with a certain one, or change with care.

That said, with other products I rarely see the same brands in Europe as I do in the US, so I would want to do some research on what is available first and discuss with your Doctor. You may need more information than the brand to get the correct dosage and type. As for cost, you can bet very safely that it will be a fraction of the cost as in the US.

Posted by
733 posts

I'm not on insulin but I do take metformin and a few months ago I was in Barcelona with a friend who was looking at something in a pharmacy so I started chatting with the pharmacist and she said that while 'technically' something like metformin requires a prescription they can sell it without. She then sold me a month's supply for €2.10! I also know someone who regularly goes to England for a week or two, buys his insulin there, and pays for the whole trip with the savings (over buying it in the US). Of course with Brexit there are stories about England running out of insulin. But point being - prices in Europe for all kinds of meds are cheaper and frequently don't require prescriptions.

Posted by
24837 posts

The reason prescriptions in the UK are so inexpensive is that our taxes support the NHS (National Health Service) which set the prices.

Health tourism to take advantage of our NHS isn't really fair.

Posted by
8293 posts

Nigel, not only is it unfair, it is disgraceful.

Posted by
4243 posts

J.C. Do you recall the price of insulin vials in Spain? The stuff in the U.S. is about $320 per vial.

Unfortunately I don't know how much insulin costs in Spain. My wife requires different medication but she noted that a lot of medication that is prescription only in the UK can be freely purchased from pharmacies in Spain. Whilst I can't categorically state for certain I'm sure that insulin is a lot cheaper in Spain than the US.

Posted by
281 posts

Thanks for all your help.

My spouse has very good insurance from his employer, and his co-pay is less than the OTC price in the EU without govt insurance. Yet, like all egregious US insurers, it pays for exactly 12 mo's supply. Should any vial gets spoiled, then he has to buy his out of pocket. Also, there is the convenience factor to get it locally.

I doubt that any EU pharmacy would give him the same price as it would to a local pensioner, and he isn't expecting this to happen.

The most shameful party is the big pharmas, for charging US customers more than 10x compared to our European/Canadian cousins.

Posted by
733 posts

It may be 'unfair', even 'disgraceful' - but that's not the fault of the person (from the US or elsewhere) buying it. It's a problem that they will sell it for those prices to people who are not part of the 'system'. Isn't there some kind of card or whatever to prove you are a UK (or wherever) resident and therefore 'deserve' to get the medications at that cost. Others should have to pay more. The health insurance system in the US is disgraceful, but an individual person buying medication at whatever cost they can is not being disgraceful.

Posted by
4243 posts

I doubt that any EU pharmacy would give him the same price as it would to a local pensioner, and he isn't expecting this to happen.

If you're buying over the counter medication you pay the price displayed irrespective of whether you're an EU citizen or not.

Posted by
2661 posts

Sarcastically, I say: Nice to know that if my diabetic T1 daughter needs more insulin while visiting her husband's family in the UK, Nigel and Norma here think she should just do with out it...you obviously don't care if someone needs insulin to live. You sound just like the people running the US healthcare system, not people who are wise because they have a good system. But then, from what I hear, the NHS isn't so secure these days. Watch out for karma, folks, karma.

Posted by
24837 posts

get real. An emergency is one thing. Funding the trips, as mentioned up thread, with the annual difference in price - getting a whole year's worth each time - is another.

Posted by
281 posts

Just returned from Spain.

I tried to get a vial of the needed insulin, but in Spain they only use pens. So, no luck there. However, during my transit in Toronto, I stopped by Costco and got it for C$32. What a great price.