French pharmacists strike to highlight drug shortages and demand better pay

Europe  RFI/Jan van der Made
© RFI/Jan van der Made

In the first major strike by pharmacists in a decade, pharmacists across France stopped working on Thursday to draw attention to drug shortages, pharmacy closures, and potential relaxations on online sales, as well as to demand higher pay.

The strike has united all representatives of the profession, including unions, pharmacist groups, and students. Striking is not a common practice among pharmacists, with the last significant strike occurring ten years ago.

Unions predict that around 90% of pharmacies will close their doors, with the figure rising to 100% in several provincial cities such as Ajaccio, Nice, Avignon, Mâcon, and Roanne.

In many places, only those pharmacies which were asked by the prefecture to ensure mandatory pharmaceutical services will remain open. Many pharmacies have notified their customers via email, screens, or posters in their windows.

"The main concern is the disappearance of pharmacies," economically weakened in both rural areas and sometimes in cities, Philippe Besset, president of the French Federation of Pharmaceutical Unions (FSPF), told French press agency AFP.

According to the group, France has lost nearly 2,000 pharmacies over the past ten years, leaving only around 20,000 currently operating nationwide.

The unions are also demanding a pay increase starting in 2025, citing the impact of inflation on their expenses. They see the latest proposals by health insurance organisations in the ongoing contractual negotiations that began at the end of 2023 as "insufficient."

Representatives are scheduled to meet with health insurance officials on June 5 for a "conclusive meeting," according to Besset.

Protests are planned across the country on Thursday, particularly in university towns, with rally points outside prefectures, regional health agencies (ARS), or local health insurance offices (CPAM), said Jérôme Koenig, director general of the Union of Community Pharmacists (Uspo).

(With newswires)