ONLINE PHARMACIES: THE SITUATION IN FRANCE

Online Pharmacies: the legal uncertainties finally lifted

With the launch in November 2012 of two online pharmacies in France, controversy on the sale of drugs over the internet has been revived. While these internet sites are backed by existing pharmacies which guarantee the reliability of their products, given that they are subject to official French standards, there are many other websites offering products which have not been officially approved and which could potentially be illegal or hazardous.

According to the WHO, “more than 50% of drugs available for sale on the internet are believed to be counterfeits”. On December 21st, 2012, in compliance with a European directive, an ordinance was published in the Official Journal of the French Republic. This authorizes the online sale of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs under certain conditions.

1. NOVEMBER 2012: PHARMACIES WHICH SELL MEDICINAL PRODUCTS ONLINE

The online sale of parapharmaceutical products was authorized in France; in contrast, no text expressly prohibited the distribution via the Web of over-the-counter drugs with or without a prescription, i.e. prescribed and reimbursed or purchased directly for self-medication.

The doctrine acknowledged that no legal text prohibited the sale of these products online, and yet recognized that the juxtaposition of the legal texts prohibited de facto such sales.

In particular, the articles of the Code of public health imply that such sales must take place in the physical presence of both the buyer and the pharmacist, so that the latter can provide professional information and advice to the client. They also imply the definition of pharmacies as physical places.

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2. ARGUMENTS AGAINST

The online sale of drugs by pharmacies is highly controversial.

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3. LEGISLATION

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4. FURTHER INFORMATION

  • Medicine with optional prescription: 455 presentations in the date of the 31 January 2013.
  • Free access products in alphabetical order (Meddispar – National Order of Pharmacists) in French: click here
  • Produced in free access by categories and classes (Meddispar – national Order of the Pharmacists) in French: click here
  • Notice: the list of medicine with optional prescription is also available and regularly updated on the site of the ANSM at the following address (in French): click here
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