Faced with overworked doctors, the French turn to self-medication


In a Parisian pharmacy, October 19, 2022.

It became a habit. When she coughs or has a bad cold, Brigitte goes to her neighborhood pharmacy. “No need to bother my GP for a runny nose or sore throat. I prefer to ask my pharmacist for advice. And then, anyway, the doctors are overwhelmed”, explains the septuagenarian. That day, the retiree came with a prescription to treat a problem ” more serious “. But in the queue for this Parisian pharmacy located in the 14e district, many of them do not.

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A lice shampoo recommended by his daughter’s school in his hand, Fabien, 39, confirms: “It has become almost impossible to get a doctor’s appointment quickly, so for minor pathologies that are not serious, it’s quicker to come directly here to buy a box of Doliprane or a syrup. »

Pain, fever, heartburn, sinusitis, allergies…

Faced with increasing difficulties of access to their doctors, the French are more and more likely to favor the purchase of non-prescription drugs to relieve their daily ailments. Even if it means spending a few euros out of pocket, for lack of a prescription. “I would have been partially reimbursed if I had consulted, but my doctor has just left his office. His replacement didn’t have a slot for a week. My yeast infection was getting so bothersome that I couldn’t sleep.says Anaïs, 35 years old.

Cough syrup and nasal spray

In 2022, of the 281.5 million visits to the counter made on average each month in French pharmacies, more than 78 million concerned purchases of non-prescription first aid products, according to the professional organization NèreS, which represents manufacturers. non-prescription drugs. “The older people already had this reflex, but with Covid-19, the younger generations have rediscovered the pharmacy and the role of the pharmacist. They understood that we were competent and easily available to respond to their benign pathologies »observes Philippe Bellaïche, president of the group of pharmacists iPharm.

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With more than 2.2 billion euros in sales between March 2022 and March 2023, and nearly 440 million boxes of medicines sold, the self-medication market certainly appears derisory compared to that of reimbursed medicines (more than 31 billion euros). “But with growth of 6% compared to four years ago, and 10.6% in 2022, it remains dynamic. Especially since there have been supply tensions on certain products which may have prevented sales”analyzes David Syr, Deputy Director General of the economic interest group Gers Data.

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