French ‘take 48 boxes of pills every year’

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Dan MacGuill - [email protected]
French ‘take 48 boxes of pills every year’
The French take three billion tablets each year, according to a new report by France's Medication Safety Agency. Photo: E-Imagine Art/Flickr

Each French person consumes 48 boxes of medication a year, according to a report published this week. The report is the latest in a series of studies that appears to confirm the French reputation for being overly obsessed with their health.


France’s ‘Agence de sécurité de médicament’ (ANSM) reported this week that the French take an average of 48 boxes of medication each year, meaning the country as whole popped three billion pills last year.

The report also found that sales of generic medication went up in France in 2012, and that the top three types of tablets were painkillers, followed by psychotropics (mood enhancement, ADHD) and antibiotics.

In all, ANSM put the value of the French market for meds at a whopping €27.2 billion in 2012.

If taking 48 boxes of pills seems surprising, this week’s report is only the latest confirm the long-standing stereotype of the French being health obsessed pill poppers. A report in June revealed that the consumption of an antibiotics in France was on the rise.

The finger of blame for why the French take so many pills is often pointed at the country's prescription happy doctors.

A 2011 study by France's national medical insurance body, the CPAM claimed doctors in France prescribed too many different medicines to patients, but it also noted the patients themselves felt cheated if they were not given a long list of products.

In April this year a report by France’s National Academy of Medicine slammed doctors for sending their patients for “pointless” tests.

“We’re making patients think they have these illnesses, because of uncertain screening. Then all you’re doing is putting a new disease in the mind of the patient,” Dr. Jean Dubousset, a Paris-based orthopaedic surgeon, told The Local at the time.

Last September, a controversial book penned by two leading French experts claimed that half of the medicines available in France were useless, and that some were even dangerous.

At the time, Philippe Even, director of the Necker Institute, condemned pharmaceuticals as “the most lucrative, most cynical and least ethical of all the industries."

There concerns appeared to be confirmed when in May Bernard Begaud, a French expert, claimed that side effects from prescribed medication alone were killing 18,000 every year, more than suicide and traffic accidents combined.

Are the French really too obsessed about health? Is a reputation for hypochondria deserved? Share your view and join the conversation in the comments section below.


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