Call for pharmacists to strike over medicine shortages in France

Total shutdown of pharmacies at end of May expected. 36 pharmacies closed in January 2024 for economic reasons

France is facing a shortage of over 4,000 medicines
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A leading medical union is asking for pharmacists to strike as a response to what it says is an ever-increasing medicine shortages in France. 

It is calling for all pharmacies to close completely on Thursday May 30, as well as for a strike of on-call pharmacists over the weekend of May 18 - 20 (including Pentecost bank holiday on Monday May 20).

Pharmacists are currently asking patients to sign a petition in support of the action.

“[The medicine shortage] represents 12 hours a week of searching for medicines for the average pharmacy,” said Pierre-Olivier Variot, president of the Union des syndicats de pharmaciens d'officine (pharmacists union, Uspo) to France Info.

“That's 12 hours during which we can't take care of patients, during which we have to deal with patients who are tired and irritated at not having their treatment… and when we have to bother doctors [about alternative treatments],” he added.

An increase in staff wages paid by pharmacies in the context of inflation whilst prices remain stagnant and the increasing number of pharmacies forced to close for financial reasons, are also cited by the union. 

“80% of our activity is linked to the price of medicines… and fees, which are both set by the state,” said Mr Variot. 

Wage costs have increased on average by 18% for pharmacies since the first wave of Covid, far outstripping the price increase of medication in that time. 

Read more: Tramadol: fewer pills in boxes in France in bid to reduce addiction

The financial burden is causing pharmacies to shut at an increasing rate. 

In January 2024, 36 pharmacies across France were forced to close for financial reasons, the Uspo said.

More than 4,000 medicines missing 

The Uspo president highlighted a report from the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM) that claims there are 4,400 medicine products facing a shortage in France. 

Read more: What is the hold-up in dealing with medicine shortages in France?

“The most fragile patients [no longer] have access to all their treatments,” said Mr Variot. 

Uspo said in a press conference that pharmacists were the only health-related group not to receive a revalorisation économique (economic revaluation of costs, etc) due to inflation in the last two Social Security budgets. 

More information on the strikes will be made available closer to the dates in question.