Wednesday 13 December 2017

Viva Las Palmas - the new wave of drugstores without drugs


Illustration: Eorna Walton
Illustration: Eorna Walton

Maurice Gueret

A new wave of drug-free pharmacies may have just the thing to give Doctor Leo a boost, writes Maurice Gueret from off the north-west coast of Africa.

Tattoo Tourists

My busman's break this year was spent a short fare away from the city of Las Palmas, capital of the Canary Islands. I noted that all the island's coastside hospitals seem to be named after saints, yet there are no nuns on the management teams. Tourists are hard to spot, being just as dark-skinned now as the locals. With tattoos, mainly. I was taught by a long-departed consultant in Sir Patrick Dun's hospital that a tattoo usually meant a patient had been in the armed forces, prison, or both. That's one medical textbook in need of updating.

Geriatric Dream

How does the single European market allow Grand Canarian diesel to be 40 cents cheaper than in Dublin? So much for being told that living on an island adds cost. The almost total absence of American coffee chains on the streets means that an Americano or espresso usually costs no more than a euro. Cigarette trade is a lot more visible than at home, but I noticed a lot fewer local smokers than on my last visit 25 years ago. Planners and traders still think of older people in Spain. The pedestrianised shopping streets are lined with so many park benches, you can easily have a sit down and gander. The local geriatric population loves to watch the world and their offspring go by. Wheelchair users are also well accommodated. You don't see those fantastically rude Irish signs saying toilet facilities are reserved for customers only. To see that many senior citizens out and about in Ireland, you might have to drive into the middle of nowhere for bingo afternoon in a care home. If you like the idea of retirement tourism - and I do - the busy and bustling Atlantic port of Las Palmas could be a great spot to mature in.

Parapharmacia Bug

Another change I noticed was the preponderance of shops called parapharmacias. These are the new wave of drugstores without drugs that are sweeping Europe. They'll sell you a wheelchair, a tweezers, blushers, vitamins or bandages. In fact, nearly all the stuff you see out front of an Irish pharmacy. What they lack is the expertise and product mark-up that comes with a resident pharmacist. Spain, France and Italy have already succumbed to the parapharmacia bug, and I'll be interested to see if we get many opening for business here. Perhaps pharmacists themselves will open them and campaign, as they are doing in the EU, for the right to sell medicines, too.

Spinning Taoiseach

I spent quite some time looking through the windows of pharmacias and parapharmacias, and noted that the most heavily promoted supplement in Spain this summer is Leotron. Not a trademark we know here, Leotron is a combination of many vitamins and minerals. It has many brands like Leotron Woman (because your energy is unique) Leotron Examinations (concentrate with energy) and Leotron Sports (fast energy so you don't stop). They may be missing a trick. I might write a note to the manufacturers suggesting they make Leotron Taoiseach. Just the thing to get you up early for the gym each morning, followed by a spinning masterclass in the Dail.

Cinematic Blemish

Colleagues in the sector won't thank me for saying so, but dermatology is something of a Cinderella speciality. Underappreciated and underfunded, they have to put up with more than their fair share of ugly-sister rashes in daylight hours. On the plus side, a distinct lack of night-time patient emergencies means most evenings are off. Skin docs get to go to the best of balls. They also go to more movies than colleagues. A recent study from skin specialists in Texas looked at how the body's largest organ is portrayed in the cinema. They found that 60pc of classic film villains display skin disfigurement, a figure that's a lot higher than movie heroes. Baldness, deep pigmentation around the eyes, red bulbous noses, facial furrows, scars and verucca vulgaris of the face are much more common in screen nasties. Sensitive skin doctors suggests Hollywood may be fostering a tendency toward prejudice directed at those with skin disease. Heroic exceptions were scar-faced Indiana Jones and Ben Kingsley's Gandhi, who had stage-7 alopecia on the Norwood-Hamilton scale. Goodness knows what they'd make of family man Freddy Krueger.

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