French told to avoid 79 medicines (because they do more harm than good)

Seventy-nine medicines currently on sale in France should be avoided as tests show that the harm they can do is greater than any health benefit they may bring, according to the latest annual report from a medical journal.

French told to avoid 79 medicines (because they do more harm than good)
Many drugs on sale in France 'can do more harm than good'. Photo: AFP

“There is no valid reason to let these medicines which are more dangerous than useful remain authorised on the market,” said an editorial in the Medical journal Prescrire which accompanied the sixth annual edition of its report.

It said the drugs on the list were more dangerous than useful and should be avoided for a number of reasons, including the risk of patients getting sicker, potentially healing better without them, or even that the drugs may offer nothing more than a placebo effect.

The report’s conclusions were based on analyses carried out between 2001 and 2017 on 90 drugs authorised in the EU, of which 79 are on sale in France.

The drugs vary in type, including some for diabetes, arthritis, allergies, nausea, cancer, or to help stop smoking or to lose weight.


Livial, a a hormone replacement therapy drug meant to help women undergoing menopause was, for example, singled out as allegedly exposing its users to cardiovascular problems and breast and ovary cancer.

Protopic, an anti-eczema drug, has “disproportionally undesirable effects” that include skin and cancer and Lymphoma, also termed lymphatic cancer, the report said.

It was scathing about drugs that claim to help users shed kilos, saying that “no medicament on sale in 2018 enables people to lose weight in a durable manner without risk.”

The report said that anti-depressants such as Valdoxan, Cymbalta, and Seropram had far more serious risks of side effects than other similar drugs on the market.

Zyban, a drug meant to help people stop smoking, should be avoided as it exposes users to neuropsychological disorders and potentially serious allergic reactions, it said.

“From the point of view of patients’ health, how can one justify exposing them (patients) to a drug that causes more undesirable effects than others?”  the reports' authors asked.

The full list of medications featured on the Prescrire list is available via this link (scroll to the bottom of the page)




France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.