Eurofoods Part X: Pharmaceuticals

Parisian pharmacies

The French love their drugs. No, I’m not talking about le dopage. France’s is the country with more pharmacies than anyone else. There are 23,000 in the country, making them second only to France’s bakeries in terms of outlets. Only a law banning villages with less than 500 people from having a pharmacie stops the number from growing. The French are the largest consumers of pharmaceuticals in Europe. They spend up to 40% more on medicine than their neighbours and consume 40% more pills too.

France has a good healthcare system but there’s a cultural habit where a basic visit to the doctor results in the recommendation of prodigious quantities of medicine. A sore throat? Take some antiseptic lozenges, gargle mouthwash and here’s a spray to squirt at the back of your throat. Crash in a race and drop by the pharmacy for some antiseptic cream and you could leave with packets of gauze, painkilling cream and even latex gloves to help ensure a sterile application. For a graze to the knee.

What’s this got to do with food in Europe? Aside from the notion of Frenchmen swallowing pills than chunks of cheese it’s a look at the context of pharmaceuticals in society. In a nation where the reflex to gobble a pill is probably stronger than anywhere else on the planet you can perhaps understand why the general public might shrug at the idea of doping. If the French don’t have a problem with pharmaceuticals, perhaps they just want their sports to remain credible, with authentic contests.

But just as I’ve pointed out the benefits of water fountains and bakeries and warned of the dangers of overcooked pasta, there’s also a positive side to all the information. If you get ill in France head for a pharmacy. You’ll get good advice and it often saves a trip to the doctor and the associated fees.
This is part of a series on European foods with links to cycling or simply for fuel:
Part I: Nutella
Part II: Pâte de fruits
Part III: Stroopwafels
Part IV: Coffee
Part V: Frites
Part VI: Pasta
Part VII: French Bakeries
Part VIII: Water
Part IX: Sirop
Part X: Pharmaceuticals
Part XI: Summary
Part XII: Esta Thé
Part XIII: Grated carrots
Part XIV: Speculoos
Part XV: Belgian beer
Part XVI: Oman Coffee
Part XVI: Italian Ice-cream

7 thoughts on “Eurofoods Part X: Pharmaceuticals”

  1. Yes, you can get good advice, diagnosis and medicine in France. In Britain you can buy toothpaste and vitamins. They seem like medical practices, not part of a chain of shops.

  2. After a year in Paris I never got used to the “here’s a prescription for 10 things” whenever my 2 year old daughter got a cold. It was worse for my wife, she would go to collect the meds and come out with so many beauty products for her on top !

  3. Gavin: there’s a law stating no pharmacist can own more than one outlet. Pharmacists have it good, the market is tilted in their favour a bit. For example basics like aspirin are only available in pharmacies and they charge plenty of it.

    Karsten: yes, the “para-pharmacy” aspect is big, there is some medicine, some quasi-medicine and plenty of extras.

  4. All I know, is that the Apotheek’s in Belgie had stuff I could never get over the counter in America and the stuff actually worked. Euro pharmacies are a life saver when your body is trying to adapt to different allergens, pollutants and foods.

    23,000 French pharmacies? That sounds about right. 1 for every 2500 ppl?

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