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Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?
Spanish law allows you to carry your own personal medication for treatments of up to three months, as long as it is accompanied by a medical prescription. (Photo by Christina ASSI / AFP)

Vitamins as well as cold and flu medication can be more expensive in Spain, and some brands of medicine that visitors use back home aren't available in Spanish pharmacies. So what are the rules on bringing medicines in from outside the country?

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Many people have their particular preferred brands of medications they use when they feel unwell or vitamins to keep up their immunity.

Whether you're just travelling to Spain or you're living here and want to keep your stocks of pharmaceuticals up, 'just in case', you'll want to know what you're allowed to bring in. 

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What medicines can you bring into Spain from abroad?

Some pharmaceuticals can cost considerably more in Spain than in countries like the US or the UK. While over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are relatively cheap in Spain, bottles of vitamins and cold and flu medications can set you back significantly.

For example, 10 sachets of cold and flu medicine in Spain will cost you around €9.68, while in the UK it costs £3.49 or €4.05.

The main difference is that in Spain you cannot buy medicines or even just painkillers from a supermarket or other shop specialising in health and beauty products. There’s no equivalent of Boots in the UK or Walgreens in the US.

Here, you have to go to a pharmacy or farmacia, where you’ll have to ask for the medications you want. You won’t simply be able to browse and choose like you can in some other countries. 

If you get a prescription (receta) from a public health doctor here, then you’ll find that the medications are much cheaper than if you simply buy them without, as they're subsidised by the state. 

Sometimes you may just want to bring medicines from your home country because you know the brand, you know those pills work for you and how they affect you.

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So what are the rules on bringing pharmaceuticals into Spain?

The rules on bringing medicines into Spain from abroad are set out in Artículo 74 of the Royal Legislative Decree or BOE. 

The Spanish government states that "Spanish law allows you to carry your own personal medication for treatments of up to three months, as long as it is accompanied by a medical prescription".

"If you are transporting narcotics and/or psychotropic medication into the country you must get a permit issued by the Spanish health authorities. In this case, you must request e-mail permission from your local Spanish consulate, providing the medical prescription and the following information:

  • Doctor's information and collegiate number
  • Telephone and e-mail contact
  • Plus all your personal details such as name, address, passport number, date of birth etc.

For example, the UK government website advises those travelling from Britain that “You need a letter to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if it contains a ‘controlled drug’. You may need to show this at the border when you’re entering or leaving the UK and Spain.

Medicines that don’t require a prescription and are not ‘controlled’ can be brought either in your suitcase or hand luggage. Be aware though, some drugs that don’t require a prescription back in your home country may require a prescription in Spain.

It’s best to check beforehand, depending on what you plan to bring in.

Even if the pharmaceuticals you’re bringing in don’t require a prescription, it’s advisable not to bring more than a three month’s supply.

If you’re coming from outside the EU, there may be certain medicines that you won’t be allowed to bring in from the UK. The UK government website states: “You cannot take some products prescribed for health conditions with you into the EU. These include special food required for medical reasons containing meat or dairy”. This could include certain brands of probiotics. 

READ ALSO: The activist warning foreigners in Spain about dangerous painkiller Nolotil

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