French Health Minister opposed to selling over-the-counter drugs in supermarkets

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French Health Minister opposed to selling over-the-counter drugs in supermarkets
The sale of over-the-counter medication is strictly controlled in France. Photo: AFP

France’s Minister of Health Agnes Buzyn said on Friday that she was opposed to the idea of allowing over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen to be sold in supermarkets.


On Thursday, the Competition Authority recommended extending the sale of non-prescription drugs such as common painkillers, hay fever remedies and cold and flu medication to parapharmacies  and mass distribution centres such as supermarkets. 

The Authority stressed that such a development should take place in dedicated spaces within supermarkets, with the "mandatory and continuous presence of a responsible pharmacist", according to the Authority.

READ ALSO: Why all 17 pharmacies in this French town must close on Mondays

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn leaving the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysees Palace on March 27th 2019. Photo: AFP

But Buzyn said she considered that such a reform could weaken the network of pharmacies in rural areas.

"I am not in favour of it," the minister said in a radio interview on Europe 1. "When we talk about this, it implies weakening small pharmacies in rural areas, which are often the first resort for sick people, I think that would be a very bad idea and a very bad signal to give. We must support small local community industries.”

The minister, a doctor by profession, added that "considering that drugs can be bought like any other food consumption product, I find that problematic. There are always side effects when you take medication, it always requires advice and pharmacists are there to give advice, to guide people.”For the National Order of Pharmacists, such a reform would amount to "breaking a model that guarantees patient health safety". 

According to its president Carine Wolf-Thal speaking to Le Monde, the current system allows the population to "have access to safe and quality medicines and medical biology knowledge. Let us be careful not to jeopardize an organisation that has always known how to adapt and meet the expectations of the population!

"It guarantees the connection and expertise that the French need more than ever to respond to the difficulties of accessing healthcare services," she says.

The Competition Authority also recommended making it more flexible for pharmacies to sell over-the-counter medicines online.

"We are examining this, because there is a demand, a need. We have a working group that meets with pharmacists," responded Buzyn on Europe 1.

"But again, for me, the issue is safety," she added. "We cannot buy everything on the internet, we must absolutely secure these purchases[...], pharmacists, especially local pharmacists, must be able to benefit from online sales and it must not be turn out to be to the detriment of this vital network and the work that pharmacists do on a daily basis for public health.”

The sale of over the counter medication in France is strictly controlled.

Pharmacies are the only places you can buy even simple products such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and you require a prescription for any codeine products, for example.


Comments (2)

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Anonymous 2019/04/07 01:50
Boggy,nearly every country in Europe is like this, France is not different. I support this decision because it is not something you should buy at a store, it must be regulated by the government in facilites that comply with government laws. Having them in stores is not necessary since there are plenty throughout France. Also, most stores in France close Sunday.
Anonymous 2019/04/06 07:39
Is she living in the nineteenth century? Also perhaps the price of paracetamol and ibuprofen would come down in price. The small town near me has three chemists and none of them opens at lunch time or on a Sunday. These draconian petty restrictions aren't helping anyone. Shops/chemists close, it's a natural phonomium in business and no amount of petty restrictions will change that.

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