Are UK prescriptions valid in France?

A reader question, answered: Are UK prescriptions eligible for a refund?

17 September 2020
Large sign reads 'prescriptions' inside a shop. Reader question: Are UK prescriptions eligible for a refund? Patrick Tomasso / UnsplashReader question: Are UK prescriptions eligible for a refund? Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash
By Liv Rowland

Question

My wife recently presented a UK prescription for a pair of glasses. She chose what she wanted, paid and looked forward to delivery. Upon returning home, we had a phone call to say the prescription was not valid for reimbursements from France’s Assurance Maladie and top-up insurance.

The reason given was that the UK leaving the EU on January 31 made UK optical prescriptions invalid. This seems incorrect. If so, can you give any references? My wife and I have lived in France for over 15 years and are tax residents. A.W.

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Answer

Prescriptions written in the EU or EEA must be recognised for medicines and medical equipment, as long as they contain the patient’s full name and date of birth, the prescription date, details of the health professional prescribing, and the item prescribed. The medicine and/or equipment must also be of a kind that is available and authorised for sale in France.

The UK is equivalent to an EEA country during the transition period, which lasts for the whole of 2020, because it is still in the EU’s single market and customs union. Therefore, the fact the prescription was British should not be a reason for refusal of a refund.

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See here, from the European Com­mission, with regard to how nothing changes in the transition period: tinyurl.com/y58k3wpj. See also this page from European social security advisory body Cleiss regarding the prescription rules: tinyurl.com/yyqv5tb9.

Both pages have versions in French, if required. It seems there has been a misunderstanding by the optician.

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