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Supermarket pregnancy tests irk French pharmacies

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-12

A new law in France could open the sale of pregnancy tests to supermarkets and convenience stores, a move that has enraged pharmacists who want to retain their monopoly on distribution.

An amendment to a Senate bill that would allow supermarkets and other retailers to sell pregnancy tests in France received the support of two government ministers this week, almost ensuring that the measure will be passed. Pharmacists, who currently hold a monopoly on distribution of such tests, are up in arms.

For Patricia Schillinger, the Socialist senator who introduced the amendment, the reform is a matter of convenience and freedom for women.

“Buying a pregnancy test is often embarrassing for young women,” Schillinger told the French press this week. “As a woman, I want to have the liberty to buy a test wherever I want, just as men can buy condoms wherever they want.”

But most supporters of the amendment say it is a simple question of economics. Opening the sale of pregnancy tests to supermarkets guarantees their price will decrease, thus making them more accessible to consumers.

“Not all women today have access to these items because of their cost,” women’s rights minister and government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, said on her website on Wednesday. “The government will support the amendment… because it represents a step forward for public health.”

However, French pharmacists said they were not ready to forgo the 37-million-euros per year market without a fight.

“This amounts to a declaration of war,” Gilles Bonnefond, president of the USPO, one of the three main pharmacist’s unions in France, told Le Monde daily.

“First it was the sale of medication on the Internet, which was very badly managed, and now its pregnancy tests. What will be next?” he raged, warning against the efforts of powerful supermarket lobbies intent on “invading the health system”.

But other pharmacists said money was not the heart of the issue.

“Above all it shows the government’s ignorance and contempt for our profession,” said Eric Myon, president of UNPF, another pharmacist’s union. “It is certainly not a breakthrough for women, quite the opposite. There products often give false positives and negatives and should come along with a significant amount of advice.”

Pharmacists’ arguments were unlikely to have much an impact on passing of the legislation in French parliament, which is controlled by the Socialist Party.

The measure also has the support from France’s family planning group, and consumer advocacy groups.

The consumer-rights organisation UFC-Que choisir said it hoped pregnancy tests in supermarkets were only the start of a wider move to break pharmacy’s grip on products.

“We would like to see all non-prescription drugs sold in supermarkets, with the accord of health professionals, as is the case of Italy and Portugal,” said Mathieu Escot, head of UFC’s health division.

Pregnancy tests currently cost between two euros to 13 euros in pharmacies and on online shops in France.

Date created : 2013-09-12


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