French pharmacies move paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen behind the counter

Chemists will have to be consulted before paracetemol remedies can be purchased.
Chemists will have to be consulted before paracetemol remedies can be purchased. AFP/Philippe Huguen

French pharmacies have begun selling non-prescription treatments for headaches and sore throats from behind the counter after health officials ordered products containing paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin to be taken off the shelves due to fears of over-medication.


The medications will remain available without prescription, but chemists will have to hand over the boxes to customers under the new rules from the Medicines Agency (ANSM).

"The experts will be able to give advice about the best way to take the tablets and tell people about the possible dangers," said the ANSM.

Tablets and syrups containing paracetamol and ibuprofen will be sold in the same way, the ANSM added.


Consumers taking medicine such as Doliprane are at risk if they exceed 3 grammes of paracetemol a day, say medics. Lesions on the liver can develop. In 2017, a woman in Strasbourg died after taking too much paracetemol.

Between 2000 and 2018, there were 337 cases of serious infection attributed to ibuprofen that resulted in 32 deaths.

An allergic reaction on the skin is the first sign of taking too much of the alpha-amylase based medicines such as Maxilase. In rare cases, victims can suffer from swollen faces or a loss of blood pressure.

Nearly 10 million boxes of alpha-amylase based medicines were sold in France in 2017.

"These are widely used medicenes and it's good that people can have access to them," said Dr Philippe Vella, head of antalgic medicine at ANSM. "But we have to do our utmost to make sure they are properly used."

Sanofi, Biogaran and Upsa, the pharmaceutical companies making many of the drugs, welcomed the move, saying any reduction of risk and the promotion of good practise was a step in the right direction.

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