France may start giving out medicines in exact amounts

Under the proposals, medicines should be given out by the unit, to avoid waste, as the government permits this for some drugs by 2022

Medicines in France should be given out by the unit to avoid waste, it has been proposed, as Parliament considers and approves the idea for certain medicines by 2022.

Statistically on average, each French person wastes the equivalent of 1.5kg of medicine per year.

Under the new proposed rules, pharmacists would only give patients the exact quantity prescribed by the doctor - down to the last pill or dose.

The government has been discussing the issue, which was a key proposal made by President Macron during his election campaign.

Now, from January 2022, certain medicines will be sold by the unit, where "their pharmaceutical format allows", junior minister for ecology Brune Poirson has said.

One patient, speaking to news source FranceInfo, said: “I think it’s a good idea. We don’t need extras, just to throw them out or have to bring them back to the pharmacy.”

Yet, health professionals are divided on the issue.

Pharmacist Martial Fraysse said: “The excess packaging of medicines that would be needed to enable them to be given out in single units is the opposite of ecologically-friendly. Imagine the plastic waste.”

Philippe Lamoureux, director general of medicine company group Leem (Les Entreprises du Médicament) said: “By selling medicines by the unit, we would lose traceability of the products. We can no longer identify our medicines. If the ANSM decides to do a recall, today they can do so by recalling the boxes. But [under this system] there would be no more boxes; the tablets would be out in the wild.”

Between 2013 and 2017, 100 pharmacies across France trialled the system for certain kinds of antibiotics. This led to a 10% drop in consumption of the drugs.

Some countries already have such a system in place - with pharmacists giving out only the exact quantity of medicines, tablets or doses prescribed by the doctor - including the UK, USA and India.

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