Pharmacists strike in France


Pharmacists in France went on strike for the first time in 10 years on Thursday. They are on strike over drug shortages, unregulated prices, pharmacies closing and fears that medications could be sold online.

After poster and e-mail campaigns to warn the public against the strike, patients at around 90% of pharmacies across France were faced with dead man’s doors. Every single pharmacy is closed for the day in some regional towns.

Local authorities requested that some locations would remain open, in order to meet the legally required minimum coverage.

Demonstrators in cities such as Toulouse, Nice, Angers and Limoges had slogans such as: “Danger pharmacies are a threat to health”, and “Where is the amoxicillin?” with reference to an antibiotic that frequently experiences shortages.

Pharmacists say they are as concerned about the shortage of medication, closure of pharmacies in rural areas and reform in training as they are about compensation and working conditions.

“The biggest concern is pharmacies that are disappearing,” said Philippe Besset, president of the FSPF pharmacists’ union. These pharmacies experience economic problems in rural areas and even in towns and cities.

About 2,000 pharmacies have closed in the last 10 years. About 20,000 pharmacies are still trading, unions said.

Pharmacist Alexandre Aunis in central Paris said his doors were open on Thursday so he could make up for the loss of income due to repeated bank holidays. He did close his doors between 14:00 and 15:00 “out of solidarity with his colleagues”.

Unions are calling for higher wages from next year as inflation pushes up their costs. This follows before talks are held next week with France’s national authority on health insurance.

French pharmacists argue that medication prices – set by the government – are lower than in neighboring countries, and this has led to shortages.

Pharmacists are also planning demonstrations in many towns and a march in Paris.

Another concern is the government’s plans to allegedly make it easier to sell medication, for which a prescription is not required, online.

“All the ingredients are there to kill the network of pharmacies right across France,” said Pierre-Olivier Variot, president of the USPO pharmacists union. This industry employs around 130,000 people.

Marc Ferracci, an MP for Pres. Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party told AFP that easier online sales were “being considered” but that people “shouldn’t lose their minds now”. “The government will not put the pharmacists’ monopoly at risk,” he argues. “Nothing will be made available to large supermarkets and medication will not be added to Amazon either,” said Ferracci.