France okays self-serve sale of medicine
PARIS, January 17, 2008 - Pharmacies in France will soon be allowed tostock many medicines in front of the counter in an effort to ensurecompetition keeps down prices, the country's health minister said Thursday. French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said in an interview in LeParisien that by the second half of this year that pharmacies would be allowedto stock on shelves accessible to customers many medicines no longerreimbursed by the French state health insurance system. "These medicines will be available as self service in pharmacies, butsupported by personalised advice from pharmacists," she was quoted as saying. The change, which is quite radical for French pharmacies in whichpharmacists dispense even non-prescription medicines, has been driven in partby price rises as contracts with the French health insurance agency no longerkeep prices down on many treatments. "When a product is sold in front of the counter you can compare prices moreeasily," said Bachelot. "I expect better information, more choice and a significant reduction inthe retail price of these medications," she added. Cough medicine, skin treatments and many gastroenterological medicationsare initially covered under the initiative, but as many as 3,000 drugs couldeventually find their way in front of pharmacists' counters. In an interview on RMC radio on Tuesday Bachelot said she opposed allowingsale of medicines in supermarkets, saying it is "a question of public healthand consumer protection."