ALMOST 1,500 pharmacies could be forced to close within the next five years as they struggle to make ends meet, new research has claimed.
A survey organised of pharmacists belonging to the Fédération des Syndicats Pharmatceutiques found many members were unable to pay the bills and repay loans.
They considered the fixed prices on certain products required by the state meant their margins were inadequate compared with other healthcare professionals, such as opticians.
The poll of more than 4,000 independent pharmacists around France was sponsored by pharmaceutical marketing firm Celtipharm.
Its director Jean-Marie Liot told Ouest France: "Every region is affected. Last year 117 pharmacies closed and that is just the beginning. We estimate that nearly 1,500 could disappear between now and 2015."
He said the problem was closely linked to the issue of disappearing doctors - once a rural GP retires and is not replaced, there is no one in the area issuing prescriptions.
"Pharmacies are closing in the areas where they are needed the most - city-edge housing estates, small rural villages and other parts of France where the economy is particularly fragile."
There are more than 22,000 pharmacies in France, which sign up to a contract with the State promising a certain level of night-time and weekend service.
Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot is looking at the case for legalising online sales of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines.
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