France is facing a shortage of more than 3,000 types of medicine, according to the senator leading an inquiry committee on the issue.
Sonia de La Provôté said all sectors had been affected, including anti-cancer and anti-epileptic drugs.
She warned of a “domino effect” in relation to antibiotics as pharmacists have turned to one variety after another, meaning “the whole chain of antibiotics” is now affected.
One in three people in France has been confronted with shortages, according to a study by patients’ group France Assos Santé.
The strain on supply chains has been going on for several months.
Various factors have played a part, including high demand due to winter flu and bronchiolitis epidemics, and the EU’s reliance on manufacturing in China and India.
To prevent future shortages, the government has drawn up a list of 280 ‘essential’ medicines, which must still be finalised.
There is no indication of when it will be made public.
The idea, inspired by similar measures taken in the UK and US, will allow the production of these treatments to be prioritised.
Health Minister François Braun said earlier this year: “Once we have the list, we will analyse all phases of production, from the active ingredients until the moment the medicine arrives in the pharmacy, and identify where the hold-ups are. “It’s unacceptable not to have access to medicines identified as essential.”
He added that steps would be taken to bring production back to France.
Drugs would be stocked ahead of future winters if necessary.
Mr Braun recently called for a joint European response to the question of shortages.
Paediatricians from several countries recently sent a letter to European health ministers warning that children were at risk due to shortages of medicines, including antibiotics and asthma treatments.
Pharmacists are now allowed to sell exact doses of certain medicines, including antibiotics, to reduce waste.
However, a year on, only 0.1% of reimbursable medicine is sold this way.
Pharmacists say they do not have time to separate doses into new boxes and print off new labels.