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Only in France: Why all 17 pharmacies in this French town must close on Mondays

The Local France
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Only in France: Why all 17 pharmacies in this French town must close on Mondays
Photo: AFP

Shops bars and restaurants are often closed on Mondays in France but one town in south west France appears to be the only one in the country where all 17, (yes 17!) pharmacies must remain closed on Mondays. It all dates back to 1973.


Ever since 1973 the 45,000 residents of the picturesque town of Castres have had to hope they don't fall sick on a Monday.

Because while doctors in the town will be open, all 17 pharmacies have had to remain closed by law, (albeit a rotation system will normally mean one out of the 17 will be open). And that means they might have to trek to neighbouring towns to get their antibiotics and doliprane.

And things are not going to change anytime soon, despite the frustration of some of the residents of Castres.

That's because a court in the Tarn department recently ruled against a new pharmacy in Castres which had the nerve of opening on a Monday.

The other 16 pharmacies in the town had opposed the move and sued Mediprix for unfair competition. Judges ruled in their favour and warned Mediprix that they risked a €50,000 fine every time they opened their doors on a Monday.

Needless to say the boss of the Mediprix pharmacy was "furious and outraged".

"It is not normal that in France we prevent people from working on a Monday, which is a normal weekday when children go to school, government offices are open and everyone works," said Christine Monino-Clot.

"But pharmacists in Castres have to remain closed. It is amazing and abnormal that we cannot work freely in our country.

"Castres is like a state within a state. The law in Castres is not the same as the law just one kilometre away," she told regional newspaper La Depeche.

(An open pharmacy in Castres. Photo: Google Street View)

Many residents of Castres appear to agree, with over 1,200 signing a petition supporting the pharmacy's right to open on Mondays.

The reason pharmacies in Castres must remain closed on Mondays dates back to a strange local authority decree implemented back in 1973. The decree simply stated that pharmacists in Castres must remain closed on Mondays unless a rotation system was introduced. 

Elsewhere in the Tarn department and indeed in France pharmacies can open when they want apart from Sundays.

The decree was introduced under pressure from unions and was justified at the time as a way of avoiding unfair competition between pharmacists who have employees and those who don't and to guarantee that employees get the necessary two days off.

The decree gave employees in Castres' pharmacies the right to two consecutive days off a week, rather than the 1.5 for pharmacists elsewhere in France are given and Monday is specifically mentioned as one of those days.

The judge decided he could not rule on the merits of this 45-year-old decree only its application and therefore ruled in favour of the 16 plaintiffs.

"This backward-looking vision presents a really bad image of our country," said Jérôme Escojido, the co-founder of Mediprix. "All pharmacies in France have the possibility of opening on Mondays but not those in Castres."

But some are happy with the court's ruling.

"Our employees are really happy to have their Monday's off," said the boss of the town's Lafayette pharmacie Guillaume Dautezac.

But Christine Monino-Clot, the boss of Mediprix pharmacy has vowed not to give up the fight.

"Pharmacies are a public service and there is no reason why the people of Castres shouldn't benefit from this service when everyone else in France can. There are even towns where pharmacies are open 24-hours a day, seven days a week," she said.

Pharmacies are as common as boulangeries in the streets of French towns but they are closing at an alarming rate, even in spite of French doctors doing their best to keep them open by handing patients huge prescriptions.

A report in 2016 suggested a pharmacy was closing every two days in France, although with 17 Castres should be OK for a few years yet.



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