Visiting the Pharmacy in France and Prescription Medicines


Essential Reading

Visiting the Pharmacy in France and Prescription Medicines

Your first trip to a French pharmacy or pharmacie might be a little nerve-wracking, but with this short guide, you will be fully prepared.

Picking Up Prescription Medicines in France

Once you have seen your doctor or a hospital specialist, if you need prescription medication, they will issue you with a prescription, known as une ordonnance in French. This prescription will detail your required medication and the prescribed dose you must take.

Most hospitals in France do not have a pharmacy, but there is usually a pharmacy nearby, so you will need to take your prescription there to pick up your medicine.. Most pharmacies close during lunchtime hours and often remain open until 18.30 or later.

For an emergency pharmacy, you will need the pharmacie de garde, and this can be found using a simple internet search in your area.

You can fill out your prescription at any pharmacy in France – however, it can save time to go to use your local pharmacy, especially for repeat prescriptions. Once they have registered your details once, they won’t need to keep asking you for all of your information.

At the pharmacy

When you arrive at the pharmacy, you will need your Carte Vitale. You are normally asked to pop it inside a little card-reader machine in order to be identified.

If you have a mutuelle top-up health insurance, take that document too, as your local pharmacy will register this with your details. Normally, this document will be scanned and saved.

You will need to have a means of payment – cash, cheque or bank card. Depending on the medical issue, you may have nothing to pay, or you may need to make a payment and receive a remboursement via your health insurance for part of the costs.

Often, the pharmacist or member of staff will write your dose on each medicine. Sometimes this is not the case, and you will need to refer back to your prescription for your dosage instructions, so hold onto it.

French Pharmacies: Differences to Be Aware Of

Inevitably, French pharmacies may operate a little different from what you may be used to. Here are a few things to note as an expat in France.

  • Medication of any sort, from vitamins to plasters (band-aids) and so forth, can only be bought from a pharmacy.
  • Paracetamol can only be bought in a pharmacy in France, and it is called Doliprane.
  • Liquid paracetamol, which may be known as ‘Calpol’ or equivalent for children in the UK, is available in French pharmacies – again as Doliprane, but it is only considered to be for infants in France. Young children are expected to take sachets of doliprane, which dissolve in water or drinks such as fruit juice. You will need to know the weight in kilograms of your child if buying doliprane for children.
  • Pharmacies also sell a range of wormers and flea treatments for pets in France.
  • You can be privately fitted for a variety of supports in pharmacies in France, from compression socks to ankle and wrist supports.

Visiting the Pharmacy : Essential French Vocabulary

J’ai une ordonnance de mon médecin – I have a prescription from my doctor

Oui, voici ma carte vitale – Yes, here is my Carte Vitale

J’ai une assurance mutuelle – I have private healthcare insurance

Mon fils/fille a une température de 39 et j’ai besoin d’acheter du doliprane, s’il vous plaît. – My son/my daughter has a temperature of 39 degrees and I need to buy some doliprane, please.

Il/elle pèse 28 kilos – He/she weighs 28 kilos

Vendez-vous un traitement vermifuge pour mon chiot, s’il vous plait ?  – Do you sell a worming treatment for my puppy, please?

Everything You Need to Know About Healthcare in France

From understanding the French state healthcare system and visiting a doctor to choosing a mutuelle insurance and dealing with your and your family’s health concerns—FrenchEntrée is here to help. Follow our Essential Reading articles for everything you need to know about healthcare in France.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.