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Call for chemists to lose monopoly

Just one in two warned that two drugs were incompatible and could lead to severe stomach bleeding

CONSUMER group UFC Que Choisir has called for pharmacies to lose their monopoly after an inquiry found "alarming" failures to give vital information on drug safety and prices that were too high.

Researchers with secret cameras called at 648 pharmacies in 17 departments to buy drugs and found that only one in two warned the two drugs being bought were incompatible - and could lead to serious gastric bleeding.

They had been asking for aspirin with added vitamin C and the decongestant Rhinureflex, which had been put on special alert by the Afssaps drug watchdog at the end of 2011. Containing ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, it should never be taken with aspirin - and never by asthmatics.

Paris pharmacies showed up very poorly in the figures. Of the 104 checked only one in three warned of the dangers of the two drugs and, when asked by the "customer" if there could be possible problems, only one in 10 thought to ask for medical history.

The researchers also found that the price of the aspirin alone could be up to four times more expensive in one shop than another. The selling price for the same box varied from €1.30 to €4.495, making an average of €2.96.

Prices for reimbursable medicines had fallen by 24% since 1998 but UFC Que Choisir found that the costs of non-reimbursable medicines - where pharmacists were free to set their own price - had risen by nearly 50% in the same period.

It also said that where drugs were taken off the reimbursement list their prices increased by, on average, 43% when they went on "free" sale.

UFC president Alain Bazot said he was "stunned" that "year after year" they found similar figures. He said it was "alarming" that so few warnings on the drugs were given. UFC Que Choisir called for pharmacies to lose their monopoly on drug sales and for more to be offered through supermarkets and para-pharmacies.

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