From Wednesday, January 15th, painkillers like Doliprane, Dafalgam or Advil can no longer be picked up directly off the shelves by customers in pharmacies.
Instead these kind of over-the-counter drugs will all be placed behind the counter, so that while they do not need a prescription, customers will still have to ask the pharmacist if they want to purchase them.
This is already the case in some pharmacies in France but French health regulator ANSM wants it to become the norm in order to stem the over-use of the drugs and the associated health risks. Over-use of paracetamol for example can use damage to the liver.
The measure will affect around 36 different brands of paracetamol including Doliprane, Efferalgan, Dafalgan and 46 kinds of ibuprofen including Advil and Nurofen.
“The ANSM would like the drugs to no longer be placed in free access and instead are all placed behind the counter of the pharmacy, which would strengthen its role of advising patients,” said the agency earlier this year.
When asked pharmacists in France often make customers aware of the risks of taking paracetamol and the maximum recommended dose.
? Favoriser le bon usage des médicaments sans ordonnance en renforçant le rôle de conseil du pharmacien
— ANSM (@ansm) December 17, 2019
The move would not change the fact that they are available without a prescription. Patient groups and pharmacies are supportive of the tightening of the rules.
The risk of paracetamol overdose main headlines in 2017 when a woman named Naomi Musenga was found to have died as a “consequence of a paracetamol intoxication absorbed by self-medication over several days”.
In July 2019 the health agency announced that boxes of paracetamol would be marked with the words “overdose = danger”.
Earlier this year France's Competition Authority recommended extending the sale of non-prescription drugs such as common painkillers, hay fever remedies and cold and flu medication to mass distribution centres such as supermarkets.
But Health Minister Agnes Buzyn made it clear she was not in favour.
“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,” she said.
The recommended amount of paracetamol is a maximum of 3 grams in 24 hours with a gap of six hours between each gram.
Members of the public are not advised to take paracetamol for longer than 3 days at a time without consulting a doctor.