11 things you need to know about French pharmacies
The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.
1. A cornerstone of France’s revered healthcare system, not to mention the beauty industry, the pharmacy is included in the basic amenities you will find in every medium-sized town and even in some relatively small villages. In fact, there are some 23,000 pharmacies across the whole country.
2. In some parts, pharmacies are the only place where residents can go for medical advice if there is no doctor’s surgery nearby and, in fact, many French people will talk to their pharmacist before going to their GP.
3. Laws regulate where you can buy medication and medical equipment and most of these can only be prepared and sold by a pharmacist. Pharmacists are also authorised to prepare medicines for specific conditions or for other medical establishments such as hospitals.
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4. Pharmacists in France are also trained to identify certain fungi, and you can take your mushrooms along to the pharmacy for them to check your collection for any poisonous varieties – free of charge.
5. Only pharmacists can own a pharmacy in France and ownership is restricted to one pharmacy, which is why there are no chains.
6. ‘Parapharmacies’ are sometimes independent but are usually incorporated within a pharmacy and they sell anything that doesn’t need a prescription, from toothbrushes and cleansing lotions to pills made entirely of natural ingredients such as plants or roots.
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7. Homeopathy is much more recognised in France than it is in the UK and French pharmacies are treasure troves of homeopathic treatments.
8. In French pharmacies, you’ll find an extensive range of beauty and skincare products from brands such as Nuxe, Vichy, Avène and Bioderma, and at cheaper prices than in the UK.
9. The pharmacy is where you pick up medication or medical equipment prescribed by a doctor. It is also where you hand in your brown feuilles de remboursement, the forms that allow you to claim the cost of medications back via social security.
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10. At the end of their studies, pharmacy students in France are given the title ‘Docteur en Pharmacie’ before taking an oath called le serment de Galien, inspired by the Hippocratic Oath. They can then work in a registered establishment.
11. There is very much an emphasis on natural ingredients used in beauty products sold in pharmacies, and the health element of these products is important to the point that there’s a ministerial decree in France that sets out which ones can be sold in pharmacies.
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