top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

France to address medicine shortage as situation worsens

As the medication shortage worsens in France, the Senate and MPs are debating how to address it - as a consumer association condemns the 'inaction'

France is considering ways to address the current medication shortage, which has severely worsened in the past decade, with MPs set to debate the issue next week and a consumer association calling for more action.

This year, more than 2,400 vital medications in France have been in short supply or not available at all - up from just 44 in 2008.

Health agency l’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament has warned that many of the drugs are not palliative, but are for serious, life-threatening conditions. These drugs are known in France as “médicaments d’intérêt thérapeutique majeur”, which are usually reimbursed at 65%.

The medications in short supply include antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, Parkinson’s disease treatments, anti-epileptics, antihypertensive drugs, beta-blockers, and heart arrhythmia drugs.

Of the drugs in short supply, 18% have no viable alternative that can be used - and even some of the alternatives that do exist can cause severe side-effects.

Many are made in China or India, meaning that France - and Europe in general - relies on these laboratories abroad to replenish stocks, and has little control over supply or pricing.

Some of the medication has been on the market for a long time meaning that its patents may have ended, with generic versions now being made by different labs and the lower profit reducing their availability further.

The issue has been worsening since 2008, from 44 medications reported at low stock levels then; up to 900 in 2010; 1,200 in 2019; and 2,400 in 2020.

Only 22% of reimbursable drugs in France are produced locally, including 17% used in hospitals and 2% used for cancer treatment.

In France, medications that are out of stock are unavailable for an average of eight months.


UFC-Que Choisir: ‘Inaction a bitter pill to swallow’

Consumer group UFC-Que Choisir has been a vocal campaigner for the issue, and has criticised the fines given to two laboratories in 2019 for their part in the shortages as “derisory” and “ridiculous” - one of €830 and another of €5,807.

Alain Bazot, president of the consumer association, has now condemned the “inaction to fight these medication shortages” as a “bitter pill to swallow”.

On the UFC-Que Choisir website, he has this week called for the government to adopt an amendment to the social security budget, which would enable stocks of at least four months to be built up as a backup in case of shortages.

This amendment was adopted by the Senate last week, but questioned by the Assemblée nationale this week. MPs are now set to examine the law again next week.

Mr Bazot said: “Given the growing gravity of this phenomenon, I call on reintroduce the sensible measure voted in by the Senate. In the same way, I call on the government to publish without delay its decree on how to ensure alternatives in case of stock shortages - a measure that was voted for last year but is taking a long time to enter into force.”

Mr Bazot also wrote that medication needs to be “organised intelligently” to avoid it “sitting on the shelf” for too long, and risking going out of date.

Related stories

High-risk patients in France hit by vital medicine shortages

My experience of ‘medical deserts’ in rural France

Why are many French people still anti-vax?

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Income Tax in France 2023 (for 2022 income)*
Featured Help Guide
- Primarily aimed at Britons, covers pensions, rent, ISAs, shares, savings and interest - but also contains significant general information pertinent to readers of other nationalities - Overview of online declarations + step-by-step guide to the French printed forms - Includes updates given automatically after this year's site opened
Get news, views and information from France